KOLKATA, INDIA – Like many Bangladeshi girls, Shohela* loves dance, especially the traditional kinds of dance her culture is known for. So she was thrilled when she found out she could dance and earn much-needed money in India.
But as soon as Shohela arrived in Kolkata, she learned she would be required to do much more than dance. She had been trafficked to a brothel in a major red-light district. That same night, she was sold to the first man who would pay to rape her.
In late November, the Kolkata police called IJM for assistance with a rescue operation. They believed two brothels in a major red-light district were selling underage girls for sex. One of the two targeted brothels was the one to which Shohela had been trafficked – less than a week earlier.
When the rescue team arrived, the first brothel was empty. But at the second, they found one girl who looked to be in her late teens – it was Shohela.
In the brothel, police officers asked Shohela questions, eager to learn more about her and how long she had been trapped in the brothel. At first she seemed reluctant to answer; after her trust had been abused so much by her traffickers, she seemed afraid to share too much information.. One of the social workers asked the police officers if they could move to another room, so Shohela would not have to answer the questions in front of the other young women who worked in the brothel. In the quiet of a nearby room, Shohela started to share the awful truth.
As police gathered evidence, social workers helped other officers escort Shohela safely back to the police station. She bravely shared the truth again, this time in a statement that was recorded and may be used in the case against her traffickers.
Now Shohela is safe at an aftercare home, beginning to process the pain of the betrayal and abuse she endured. But the social worker who was there with her on the night of rescue says it is amazing to see how much joy the girl already has – joy that sometimes takes months if not years to restore to trafficking survivors.
IJM Kolkata Director Biju Mathew added: “Rescuing girls within the week of their bondage is like pulling someone out of a raging river, just before they drown. The pain is present but recovery is imminent.”