A victim of rape, child marriage (to the rapist), domestic violence and, as if this wasn’t horrible enough, human trafficking!
Today she is 18, owns a small business and saves girls from descending into the same hell, at a village in the Sundarbans, West Bengal. Aparna (name changed) was just nine when she was raped by a 19-year-old man who entered her house while she was sleeping and her mother had gone for work.
He left her bleeding on the bed. In the evening, when her mother returned, Aparna narrated the incident to her, and the duo went to the village’s arbitration centre seeking justice.
After an investigation, the boy was identified and was forced to marry her. That was, as per the village elders, justice enough and punishment enough for the rapist. Today, Aparna encourages rape survivors to register FIRs rather than go for arbitration and end up marrying their tormentors.
Marrying the man who raped her soon turned into a nightmare for Aparna. Her husband started beating her up, singed her with cigarette tips, struck her with rods and belts. Every day, she was left blue and black.
Unable to bear it any longer, Aparna approached the arbitration centre to complain about domestic violence. This time, the elders told her to take the legal path.
“I filed a case and started visiting the court for the legal proceedings. Soon, it became a hassle for me to visit the court for hearings. One day at Canning railway station, from where I was supposed to board a train to meet my advocate, an unknown woman approached me. She was carrying a water bottle with her. I was thirsty and asked the woman for a drink of water. But she bought me a new water bottle. Few minutes after I drank that water, I became unconscious. When I regained consciousness, I was in a brothel in Delhi,” she said.
Some days later, Aparna got to know that her mother-in-law had sold her to a human trafficker.
“At the brothel in Delhi, I was forced to attend to more than eight customers a day,” she said, adding that there was physical violence also.
“Almost a month later, I learnt that the brothel was located in central Delhi’s GB Road. The building was like a cage where you can’t even breathe. At times, I was tortured by the customers who have left several cigarette burn marks on me,” Aparna told MAIL TODAY.
One day, and she remembers that it was raining outside, a customer dressed in a white shirt and blue denims came.
“He looked educated. After I locked the door, I started crying and I told him how I was trafficked. He assured me that he will rescue me. Few days later, a police team along with an NGO raided the brothel where I was caged. They rescued me. When I reached the police station, I was surprised to see the same man sitting in a senior official’s room. He recognised me and I was sent back to my village,” she said.
Aparna has also dedicated her life to saving young girls in her village from falling prey to predators.
“I am a part of Bandhan Mukti, a rape suvivors’ collective group. I am also a part of Swayangisddha, an initiative taken by West Bengal Police. I don’t want others to experience what I have. We work with vulnerable girls and victims, try to educate them and make them strong enough to defend themselves,” she said.
The 18-year-old has counseled more than 30 rape survivors and has educated several vulnerable girls about human-trafficking.
“During counseling sessions, many minor girls have told me about traffickers in their localities. I keep on passing such information to the police,” she said.