Kept as sex slave in Gujarat, Jabalpur woman wriggles out of hellhole

TIMES OF INDIA

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh police arrested a couple who sold a woman in Gujarat where she was kept as a sex slave. Accused Ritesh Barman and wife Mona, are residents of Gorakhpur area in Jabalpur district. They confessed to having sold the 35-year-old woman to one ‘Popet Bhai’ in Gujarat for Rs 1.25 lakh.

Popet sold her to a Patel family in Junagarh for Rs 1.80 lakh. She was kept hostage and repeatedly raped, besides being forced to work as bonded labour. She wriggled out of their clutches and reached Jabalpur on October 23.

On October 29, when two people came to Jabalpur and tried to kidnap her, she went to the police and narrated her ordeal. The rape survivor alleged she was raped by one Bhawan Patel, Vallabh Patel and other members of the family.

Police said, she was a mother of two and was working as a domestic help in Jabalpur. The Barman couple took her to Gujarat, promising better pay. During interrogation, police found more girls had been trafficked from the state and sold in Gurajat by Popet Bhai. Teams have been dispatched to Gujarat to arrest him. A case has been lodged against five people, including Popet.

2 arrested for trafficking

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA

Two men have been arrested for allegedly trafficking a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl to and plotting to sell her abroad using social networks.

The two accused have been identified as Alam Giri and Raj Kumar Pandey, both of whom were distant relatives of the victim, and were arrested by the East Delhi Police from Mandawli and Nizamuddin area.

The girl was brought to two years ago and confined by the duo, who were using social networks like WhatsApp and to send the girl’s photos abroad and negotiate with foreign customers, police said.

“They had even finalized a deal with someone in France and the girl was soon supposed to be ‘transported’ to her buyer,” a senior police official said.

However, the girl somehow managed to flee from their clutches with the help of her 27-year-old boyfriend.

The incident came to light when the girl reached Karkardooma along with her lover to marry him. When she revealed her age, their advocate informed police.

“When we inquired with her, she revealed her ordeal to us. We then raided the hideouts of Alam Giri and Raj Kumar Pandey and arrested them,” a senior police official said.

Further investigations revealed that a woman named Beauty Akhtar, who is currently in Bangladesh to get her passport renewed, is the kingpin of the gang.

Police is scanning the social media accounts of the arrested duo to find out whether they had sold other trafficked girls in the past as well.

“We have registered a case under sections of human trafficking and six acts of Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse (POCSO) at Mandawali police station. Further investigations are on and efforts will be made to nab the other members of the gang,” the official added.

Delhi court upholds sex worker’s dignity, jails rapists

PUBLISHED IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Four men who raped a Rwandan woman refugee in Delhi just weeks before the brutal December 16 gang rape shook the Capital have been found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty of 10 years in jail by a Delhi court.

The men, in their defence, had claimed the woman was a prostitute and an illegal immigrant who had falsely implicated them to find an excuse to stay on in the country. The court, however, said their argument “deserves to be rejected outright”.

During her cross-examination, the woman said she previously worked as a prostitute. However, the judge said it was irrelevant to the case.

“Simply because the victim worked as a sex worker before the incident in question doesn’t confer any right upon anyone to violate her dignity,” additional sessions judge Kaveri Baweja said.

The court further noted that DNA evidence found on the convicts left no doubt there were physical relations between them and the rape survivor, adding “it is not the claim of the accused that the prosecutrix entered into sexual relations with the accused voluntarily”.

“This is a good judgment. The ministry of women and child has already clarified that no action needs to be taken against foreign nationals who may have been brought here and forced into trafficking. It’s good that the court has reinforced this stand,” Ravi Kant, president of NGO Shakti Vahini that works for gender equality, told HT.

The convicts Deepak, Praveen, Vikas and Ashok Ekka — all Delhi residents — were sentenced to 10 years in jail for gang-rape and abduction.

They were also ordered to pay a compensation of Rs. 59,000 to the rape survivor. According to the rape survivor’s statement, she was walking towards Gandhi Nagar around 7pm on December 1, 2012 when three men in a car grabbed her.

She was then drugged, brutally beaten and raped in the moving car before she lost consciousness. She woke up naked and bleeding on the banks of the Yamuna. Her clothes, wallet and money were later recovered from the homes of the accused.

NCW set to propose legalisation of sex trade, Centre expresses displeasure

IBN LIVE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QS3MM_W635k

New Delhi: The National Commission for Women (NCW) is set to propose legalisation of sex trade to a committee appointed by the Supreme Court but according to sources the Women & Child Development ministry isn’t in favour the idea.

Ever since the news of the National Commission for Women’s deciding to propose legalizing sex trade before a Supreme Court constituted panel, a debate has been raging. In the dark dingy lanes of Delhi’s infamous red light area, GB road, it’s always been business as usual.

It’s unclear how many of these women opt into the flesh trade… and how many are forced into it by others – But an overwhelming majority seemed to back the idea of legalising prostitution.

“If it’s legalised then we won’t get harrased by police..we would have the rights to file a complaint against a customer ,” said a sex worker but there’s also a huge segment against this, “traffickers were get emboldened – rehabilitate us, don’t legalise it,” said another sex worker.

Some members of the SC appointed panel too have their reservations. Making brothels legal will make them vulnerable, we are against any move to legalise prostitution, said president of Shakti Vahini Ravi Kant. .

While the NCW chief who made headlines with her statements supporting legalisation, has suddently gone mum on the issue, “Won’t comment on sex workers issue,” said Laitha.

Women’s groups too are deeply divided, Shabnam Khan said, “It’s a good move provided they get all facilities like helath care etc.”

While women & child ministry hasn’t commented on the issue yet – A delegation of members of women’s groups in India met NCW chairperson and submitted a memorandum urging it to go in for a national-level consultation with all sections on the matter.

Domestic helps to knock Modi’s door

PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Still in a daze, the mother of the 14-year-old maid found dead at a house in an upscale Gurgaon locality, in January, kept up her demand for justice. The postmortem has established sexual abuse though the girl’s employers alleged suicide. Her account of the unhelpful police—no one has been arrested—at a public meeting packed with domestic workers on Tuesday once again pressed home the need for a central legislation to regulate this sector.

Now, domestic workers, under the banner of National Platform for Domestic Workers, a group of NGOs, have decided to knock on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s door, asking for the pending legislation to be enacted. In the summer of 2013, thousands of domestic workers converged on the streets of Delhi, demanding a central law. They submitted a petition to committees in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on July 31, 2013. The Congress-led UPA government had failed to enact the legislation and now, one and a half years later, men and women engaged in housework in cities are still waiting for their due.

The country is estimated to have over 50 million such workers. On Tuesday, household helps in the city came together to voice their concerns. The girl’s mother was among the workers who testified to the abuse and denial of workers’ rights before an eminent jury headed by the chairperson of the National Women’s Commission, Lalitha Kumaramangalam. Dr P M Nair, retd DIG (trafficking), now at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and S C Srivastava of the National Labour Law Association were part of the jury. The organizer, NPDW, comprises trade unions and organizations of domestic workers from around the country. The participants who spoke were both full-time and part-time workers, including those trafficked for labour by individuals and unscrupulous placement agencies.

Besides a central legislation, NPDW also wants the ratification of the ILO Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which was passed in June 2011. The central law for domestic workers should regulate employment and work conditions, fix wages and hours, regulate placement agencies and provide a mechanism for resolution of disputes and protection of employment. Social protection provisions should include social security, health, education, childcare, housing, skill training and pensions, affirmed the NPDW.

Subhash Bhatnagar, activist and lead member of NPDW, said beginning with the Domestic Workers (Conditions of Employment) Bill, 1959, there’ve been many attempts to control this sector, but without success. The most recent attempt was the Domestic Workers (Conditions of Service) Bill, 2009. There still isn’t a central act to protect the largest and fastest-growing sector of employment for women in urban areas.

Our very own Malala: trafficked at 12, crusader and global Girl Hero at 18

trafficking story

PUBLISHED IN THE TELEGRAPH03metlady_184626

Anoyara Khatun was all of 13 when she led an army of children across a canal at midnight, caught a trafficker and saved a family on the verge of losing their teenage daughter to a trafficking ploy in the name of marriage.

She has since managed to save at least 50 minor girls from child marriage.

n A few months after her first act of courage, Anoyara managed to pin down a trafficking tout along with a battalion of children and taught him a lesson he would find hard to forget.

Till date, she has foiled nearly 85 trafficking attempts, helped rescue and reunite more than 200 children with their families and got 200 dropouts back into school.

n The following year, when former education minister Kanti Biswas was on his way back from a village in Sandeshkhali in the Sunderbans, Anoyara and her army of kids trooped in, blocked his path and forced him to accede to their demand to build more schools in the village.

03metanwara15_184914Today, Sandeshkhali has 84 schools.

The first thing that strikes you about Anoyara, 18, is that her eyes speak. They are large, luminous and transfix you at once.

She is seated on a stool outside the Dhagagia Social Welfare Society’s office in Sandeshkhali, her face radiant in the afternoon sun as she contemplates the world around her.

“Don’t you think this place is beautiful?” she asks, her eyes scanning the expanse of green on one side and the water bodies on the other.

She is clearly in love with the hinterland to which she belongs and has taken upon herself to protect.

Her world wasn’t always so beautiful. It couldn’t have been after being trafficked at 12.

But this powerhouse of a girl from Chhoto Askara, a tiny village that is part of Bengal’s most trafficking-prone belt, isn’t the type to dwell in the past. Anoyara has not only left her private hell behind but also rebuilt her life as an activist leading an army of children who battle trafficking and child marriage in quirky little ways.

Her courage and commitment to protecting the girl child has been widely recognised, the biggest honour coming from the foundation led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

03metleadAnoyara is one of the “Girl Heroes” from across the world that the Malala Fund is currently celebrating for 30 days — from October 11 to November 9 — as a beacon of “exemplary courage and leadership”.

The Malala Fund, which focuses on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education, has tagged Anoyara as “#StrongerThan Social Ills like Child Trafficking and Early Marriage” and anointed her a “true Girl Hero”.

But long before Anoyara emerged as a force against exploitation, she had to grapple with a dark and traumatic phase in her life.

Born in 1996 as the youngest among four siblings — three sisters and a brother — Anoyara lost her father when she was five. Her mother began working as a cook in a local school to feed the family but life was hard.

“I was going to school but had to drop out when I was in Class VI,” recalls Anoyara, who doesn’t like to revisit her past. “I don’t like to talk about what I have left behind. I like to talk about how I am moving forward in life,” she says with a conviction nobody can defy.

Anoyara was barely 12 when she was trafficked to Delhi and forced into domestic labour, a hellhole she managed to run away from after a year. The transition from victim to victor was quick, a trait that has since defined her work as an activist.

Anoyara reels off a list of activities she and her children’s groups in the area have been involved in to spread awareness among villagers about child marriage and trafficking.

We also learn that she is now the leader of as many as 80 children’s groups across 40 villages in Sandeshkhali.

These groups are all affiliated to Save the Children and the Dhagagia Social Welfare Society-run multi-activity centre, which Anoyara had joined when she was 13.

“There were only 10 groups when I joined and then I got more girls like me to join in. Now there are more than 1,600 children and I keep track of all of them!” she smiles, holding up the Nokia C1 phone that she uses to keep in touch with her groups.

“I got this (the phone) three years ago as a prize in Ranchi. It helps me in my work because I can connect with people and children’s groups can call me any time.”

For a fleeting moment, the child in the 18-year-old surfaces. “We don’t have a television at home but I can listen to songs on this phone. Nachiketa and Shreya Ghoshal are my favourites,” Anoyara says, breaking into a smile.

She quickly goes back to describing how her groups operate around Sandeshkhali I and II and Minakhan, quizzing families on the whereabouts of children they have married off or sent out with strangers to work. “You know, my sisters were all married off at 13 or 14. None of us knew anything about child marriage at the time. For us, it was a custom,” she recounts.

Her sharp eyes soften as the conversation delves deeper into the subject. “When you endure a lot of pain, trouble and misery, you take it as a challenge to overcome that. Adversity was my driving force. I realised that if I didn’t bounce back from my ordeal, many more girls from Sandeshkhali would go missing. It became a mission and a challenge to myself to put a stop to exploitation of children and keep them from falling into the dangerous trap of trafficking or child marriage.”

But turning pain into power was far from easy for Anoyara, who had just stepped into her teens when her mission began.

“Before reaching out to people in the villages, I had to convince my own family to allow me to step out of the house. I reminded them of the pain they had gone through when I was away and how important it was to get other families to realise the dangers too,” she says.

Breaking the ice with villagers indifferent to “worldly advice” from a bunch of “precocious children” was the next challenge. “They would say, ‘What do you kids know? Who are you to tell us?’ It was difficult to get the elders to pay attention to us but we never gave up. We would keep visiting them endlessly till they were convinced and clear about what we as children were trying to tell them.”

Anoyara’s courage came to the fore when she saved a girl from the clutches of touts and captured the men with help of a group of children her age. “In our village, people go to sleep by eight and children aren’t allowed outside. I managed to get out of the house, take some friends along, chased the traffickers across the village, jumped canals and caught them. It was a huge risk but it changed the way elders looked at us.”

She went on to become a role model in her village and the adjoining areas, employing out-of-the-box strategies for her children’s army to stalk, spot, seize and hand over traffickers to the authorities.

“Our first rule is to follow any outsider we see in the village and pass the message to each other at the multi-activity centre. If we find them going into a house, two or three of us will playfully saunter in, hang around, eavesdrop on the conversation and then come back and report to the group,” she reveals.

“If we realise that the person has wrong intentions and could be a potential trafficker, we immediately meet the child in question and explain why they should not go away with the stranger. Then we go and meet the family as a group to help them understand too. And if we find them running away with a child, we will drag them to the centre of the village and tie them up.”

While some traffickers mend their ways and even join the child protection committees in the villages, others don’t dare enter Anoyara’s territory again.

She takes you to a multi-activity centre to meet one of the children’s groups with a spring in her step, smiling at the children who squeal: “Didi! Didi!”

“How are you? Have you eaten? Why are you looking glum? Smile!” Anoyara tells the children, later joining them in a game of Chinese Whispers.

Keya Parvin, a 15-year-old member of one of the children’s groups, has something to tell us. “Do you know that once we children raided a wedding and stopped a family from marrying off a child? We have learnt so much from Didi. All of us want to be like her.”

The advantages of being a child activist are many, according to Anoyara. “Children will always be the first ones to know. And a child will always listen to someone her age and treat her like a friend. An adult would most likely try to instruct,” she says.

“Everyone from Maulvis and Brahmins to village heads and the police listen to us now. But that doesn’t mean we are rebels. We respect elders.”

Anoyara had been nominated for The International Children’s Peace Prize in 2012, an award that went to Malala the next year. Last June, she travelled to Brussels to represent Save The Children in a Global Partnership for Education conference.

Aamar passport hobey, bideshey jabo…bhabtei parini (I couldn’t have imagined that I would have a passport and go abroad). I loved the glass buildings and ate a lot of chocolates. I also met Malala’s father,” recalls Anoyara, who idolises Malala.

“I want to be like her someday. I was so happy the day she won the Nobel. I keep news clippings of her whenever I find one.”

While Anoyara aspires to be like Malala, nothing gives her more satisfaction than bringing a missing girl back home or stopping a child marriage.

She has made it a ritual to organise a big children’s party whenever a trafficked child returns to Sandeshkhali. “We collect money and organise a feast of dal, bhaja and egg curry at the multi-activity centre. We sing, dance and play from morning till evening. And then, like a friend, we get the rescued child to talk to us, share her misery and join our group.”

For Anoyara, the joy comes from providing the love and protection that she had once yearned for. “What I didn’t get I try to give to others,” she says.

Alongside her busy schedule, Anoyara is studying for her graduation in a local college. She is the first from her village to go this far.

An average day in her life means waking up at 6am, reading namaz and tutoring 25 children before leaving for college. Back home by 4pm, she goes around her village checking on the children.

Like most teenage girls, Anoyara loves her trinkets, kajal and the colour pink. The one thing that irks her is the idea of keeping pets. “I love cats and dogs but I don’t like the idea of caging anyone, be it animals or humans. They should all be set free.”

Her refuge from the nightmare of being caged is a little diary full of songs and poems. They are all about human trafficking and tell you a bit about her suffering as a child. “Mon kharap holei aami likhi (I write when I am sad),” she says.

Her ambition is to learn English, computers and cycling. “I think these will make me braver,” she says, not bothering to elaborate.

Once again her eyes do the talking.

What message do you have for Anoyara Khatun? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com

Sex Workers Seek Changes in Law

sex workers hinduPUBLISHED IN THE HINDU