In a few days into her marriage with a mason in Narail, Mitu (not her real name) found that her husband was a drug addict and had another wife.
It was 2012. Then 15-year-old, she also suffered regular torture that left her with no other option than to leave the man.
The divorce, however, brought her hardly any relief. As she went back to her parents in Jashore, neighbours and relatives started to raise questions about her character.
Disgusted and disturbed, Mitu was desperately looking for an escape. Daughter of a poor van driver, she also needed a job to support herself and her family.
This was when a neighbour named Poly came up with a lucrative offer of a better life in India. Mitu saw no reason to turn it down.
Months after crossing over into Kolkata on June 30, 2014, she realised that she became a victim of transnational trafficking gang.
“But it was too late,” said Mitu at her Jashore house after a Bangladeshi NGO rescued her from a shelter home in India on August 21, 2017.
“I was sold to pimps who took me to different brothels in Kolkata, Mumbai, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, where I was forced to have sex with customers almost every night,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes.
“If I ever disobeyed them, they kept me confined to a small dark room and beat me up.”
She was rescued by police on January 19, 2015 from hotel Chawla Palace in Nagpur, where a pimp named Rashid Khan Rehan had kept her captive.
Officials later sent her to a shelter home from where she was brought back to Bangladesh.
UP FOR SALE!
Like Mitu many other local women were trafficked to India through different border points of Jashore.
Rights Jessore, which is working to prevent human trafficking and provide service to victims, brought back around 1,117 people from India since 2009 to April this year.
According to police database, around 7,040 victims were rescued from different countries between 2013 to June 2018. Of them, 5,367 were male, 1,138 female and 535 children.
The Daily Star managed to talk to four victims who were rescued from various shelter homes of India from January to April last year by the organisation. Mitu is one of them.
She faced no trouble in the first couple of weeks after going to India with traffickers. One day, the owners of the house in Madhya Pradesh where she was staying made her wear some short dresses and placed her before a businessperson named Bobby.
“As Bobby refused to buy me, Joly and her husband [the owners] got angry and they confined me to a small dark room. For the next three months, I was given an injection every day but my meals became irregular,” she said.
“Within a couple of months, my body turned bulky and they took me to a residential hotel. They forced me to have sex with an elderly man.
“Every day, I was made to sleep with different people and they kept giving me different types of medicine. I used to pass my days crying until Indian police rescued me from a residential hotel a year after continuous torture.”
Mitu was trained in tailoring at the Indian shelter home and now she is using the skill to be self-reliant. Happily married again, she doesn’t want to look back and her husband doesn’t know she was a trafficking victim.
A 14-year-old school student was abducted near her residence in Magura Bus Stand area on April 18, 2017 while returning home after attending a tuition.
Some four abductors pressed something against her mouth making her unconscious. Waking up, she found herself at Howrah Station of Kolkata.
As she shouted for help, a young man came forward and “rescued” her and took her away with him, saying he would shelter her in his apartment and then send her back to Bangladesh.
“A couple of days later, the man came to my room and did bad things,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“After that, it became regular and the man also tortured me every night,” she said, adding that he used to lock the apartment door from outside whenever he went out.
“One day, after a couple of months, I found the door open and ran away from the apartment. Later, I saw a police station and shouted for help.”
Police then sent the girl to a shelter home from where Rights Jessore brought her back in March last year.
The girl is now in the comfort of her house with parents but still she cannot sleep well. She often cries out in sleep, said her father while talking to this correspondent on May 4.
Executive Director of Rights Jessore Binoy Krishna Mallick said most of the victims trafficked to India landed directly in different brothels. They faced unspoken torture that still keep them traumatised, he said.
He believes human trafficking may stop if the perpetrators face capital punishment. Besides, there has to be awareness building among people in border areas to stop the heinous crime.
AS Mahmood, director of Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, told The Daily Star that some NGOs are working on rehabilitation and counselling of trafficked children but on a small scale.
“The government should take permanent measures for rehabilitating trafficked victims, otherwise the situation will not improve,” he added.
Ferdousi Akhter, project manager of Bangladesh Counter Trafficking in Persons Programme under Dhaka Ahsania Mission, came up with a similar view.
She said the organisation has been providing support to trafficking victims since 1997. “But we do it under different projects which are not adequate,” she said.
“Once a victim is rescued, we keep them in shelter homes under close observation. We arrange counselling for them and their family members,” she said, adding that they also provide support in their livelihood process.
“We work jointly with the department of youth development and woman affairs of the government to provide livelihood support to the victims,” said Ferdousi.
“But we often found the trafficked victims became victim of re-trafficking as the society in some cases did not accept them. Besides, victims were often not happy with low income from the jobs we arranged for them.”
If the government makes a long-term and comprehensive plan for the rescued victims, it would be helpful and effective, Ferdousi added.