Shilpi* used to live in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, with her family. Her mother was a member of a small association which offered Shilpi a job in a beauty parlour. The offer was very attractive and would help to support her family so Shilpi accepted it.
Shilpi then became friends with another young girl who was working in the parlour and, through her, she met a boy and gradually fell in love with him. One day, she met her friend from the parlour and her boyfriend, who was already friends with Dhaka’s boyfriend, and went to lunch together. At the restaurant, the boys put drugs in the girls' food and they became unconscious.
When they woke up, they were on a train and they soon realised that the boys had trapped them. They travelled for 2 nights and 3 days before reaching Gujrat in India.
“A few strangers came there and took us with them to a house.” Explains Shilpi. “In the house, we found another girl who was trafficked like us. We were crying, screaming out of fear. We were wondering where they had brought us.” Says Shilpi.
“At night, some boys came to visit us. They brought drugs with them and forced us to take these. They kept changing our location”, she says. “During the whole time they tortured us. They kept us locked in separate rooms so that we could not communicate with each other. Later, they took us to a hotel in Mumbai where we were sexually abused.“
Luckily, Shilpi managed to buy a mobile phone through one of her clients, using the money she received as tips. One of her clients gave her a SIM card and she was able to contact her mother. She called the Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) to help her.
When the traffickers realised that Shilpi had managed to contact her family in Bangladesh, they wanted to take her to a new location. Shilpi explains: “When we reached the station, I started screaming to draw attention to me. A few police noticed me and rescued me from there but the traffickers had fled the scene.” She adds: “Later, BNWLA coordinated with a local NGO who works with on human trafficking issues and released me from police custody. I stayed in a shelter home of the local NGO in India for about 10 months and later, I was repatriated to Bangladesh with the support of BNWLA.”
“I was taken to India in 2016 and only came back to Bangladesh in 2018. The boy with whom I fell in love with was still in India. Now he has been arrested by the police. He was Bangladeshi and to those he sold like me were also Bangladeshis. The traffickers tortured me a lot. I was determined to pursue justice as they wronged me. If I get justice, then it might not happen again to any other girl.
"The whole time, I missed my mother a lot. Maybe if I told my mother about my relationship earlier, I would not have to face this. When I went missing, my mother filed a case in Bangladesh. Following that, BNWLA rescued me.”
The investigation of Shilpi’s case in Bangladesh is now complete. They are now recording statements from the witnesses. Some of the perpetrators have been arrested following the case filed in India. Shilpi attempted to attend virtual court sessions a number of times with the Indian court but due to technical problem, they could not connect her. She cannot go home because of the trafficker’s relatives and network. Her mother fears that they might harm them again. Shilpi fears that she might have to live apart from her mother for rest of her life.
“Now I am re-starting my life. BNWLA provided me with psychosocial counselling to help me to recover from the trauma I endured in India. I have also received livelihood training from them on handcrafts and sewing,” Shipi says. “I have also completed a three-month long training course on machine operating for garments factory and got a job in a factory in Dhaka. But as soon as the locked down started due to COVID-19, I lost my job. Now, I dream to start my own business.”, she adds.
“There is a good demand of beauty parlour service in my locality. So, I wish to utilize my previous work experience and start my own beauty parlour one day. I don’t want any other girls to suffer like I did. I want to speak up, so they will know about the risks of human trafficking”.
*Shilpi is a borrowed name.
The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants - Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT Asia and the Middle East) is a four-year (2018-2022), €12 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in four countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Iraq and Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The project builds on a global community of practice set in motion in GLO.ACT 2015-2019 and assists governmental authorities and civil society organizations in targeted, innovative and demand-driven interventions: sustaining effective strategy and policy development, legislative review and harmonization, capability development, and regional and trans-regional cooperation. The project also provides direct assistance to victims of human trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and protection mechanisms.