Bangladeshi girl faces torment of exploitation in Mumbai

Extreme poverty is often a catalyst for exploitation, as Juli’s story tragically illustrates. The Bangladeshi girl was trafficked to India and held in sexual slavery for more than a year. But thanks to a World Vision child protection project, she’s finally on the road to recovery.

Story by Gloria Das, World Vision Bangladesh. Photos by World Vision staff.
Published June 8, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Juli,* 17, is from a village about 70 miles from the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Juli’s father, Atiar Sheikh, 49, and mother, Roxana Begum, 45, were day laborers.

One day when Juli was just 1 year old, her father abandoned the family, leaving Roxana alone to care for her daughter.

“I was so helpless just thinking of surviving with my child and decided to start work in a brick field,” remembers Roxana. “I had to work there with laying my baby girl, Juli, beside my work place.”

A few months later, Roxana married another man who worked as a mason. He didn’t like Juli and sometimes subjected her to mental and physical abuse. The girl grew up in an environment of distress and neglect.

“Though our economic condition was quite bad, my mother admitted me in a school,” Juli explains, “but I could not continue my studies due to poverty and [improper] parental care.”

Juli goes on to recount how she continued to be abused at home, which produced in her a sense of desperation. One day, a distant aunt came and made an offer that the girl couldn’t refuse.

“She lured me with assurance of taking up a well-paid job in Mumbai and providing me a luxurious life. I could remember I was only 14 at that time,” Juli says. “I was excited by her offer and decided to go with her in search of a good life.”

‘It was a nightmare’

Upon Juli’s arrival in Mumbai, two young women led her to a house, where she found another 14 girls — six of whom were from Bangladesh, just like her.

“[When] dark fell, I saw different types of people coming in that house,” Juli recalls. “It took me some time to understand that they all are clients, and I was trapped in the red-light area in Mumbai.”

Juli was asked by her captor to entertain the clients. She refused. So she was physically abused and deprived of food.

“It was a nightmare, and [it] chases me all the time,” Juli says through tears.

Juli and her mother receive consultation from staff at World Vision's child protection project in Bangladesh.“I shudder in fear to remember how I was sexually exploited by engaging 10 clients at a time. I was forced to go to them while shedding my tears silently, as nobody was there to hear my piteous cry.”

A long, hard road

After one full year of terror, Juli managed to escape from that dark place with the help of a Bangladeshi client. Tragically, the police arrested her and returned her to her captor, who claimed Juli as her own sister and took her back.

After another month, Juli escaped with the same client who had assisted her the first time. The police arrested her again — but this time, they sent her to a shelter in Mumbai. There, she waited for another two years before returning home.

Finally, in September 2011, police at Benapole, a border crossing between India and Bangladesh, referred Juli to a World Vision child protection project in Bangladesh. There, she received counseling, medical treatment, clothing, and food. She also began vocational training to become a tailor.

The path to healing and recovery

Juli cries and embraces her mother after returning home from her terrible journey.Upon completion of the training, Juli will receive a sewing machine through World Vision to help her earn money. World Vision also plans to provide her mother, Roxana, with livelihood assistance to open a vegetable shop.

“I want to forget those horrible days and want to start a new life,” Juli says, calling on World Vision to continue its work. “Like me, there are many girls who are passing their days in a suffocating entourage in the brothels of India and looking for a better life. World Vision Bangladesh can rescue and repatriate them to their families.”

Juli now lives with her mother again. “I am really happy to come back to my family. I have found my home again,” she says, this time with tears of happiness. “Thanks to World Vision Bangladesh for their love and appreciation for me; [I] hope they will continue their support in the future.”

*The girl’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Learn more

Tragically, it’s estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 persons per year — or 30 to 50 per day — are trafficked to the major cities of India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Most trafficked women and girls range in age from 7 to 24, while boys range in age from 2 to 12.

Read a blog post by World Vision’s Jesse Eaves, who reports on the human trafficking crisis from one of its hotspots: Benapole, a major border crossing between Bangladesh and India.

Three ways you can help

Pray for young children around the world like Juli who are subject to the horrors of exploitation. Pray that they would be freed from their bondage, and pray for God’s blessing upon those who seek to rescue these children and bring about healing and justice for them.

Make a one-time donation to help provide hope for sexually exploited girls. Your gift will help World Vision deliver critical assistance to vulnerable girls through interventions like trauma counseling, safe shelter, food, medical care, vocational training, and more.

Contact your members of Congress today and ask them to support reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The law, which represents the cornerstone of U.S. policies to fight modern-day slavery, expired on September 30, 2011, because lawmakers did not act on time. Until they do, U.S. efforts to fight human trafficking are essentially on hold.