At thirteen, Sonali* was stolen from her village, dragged to the back streets of Sonagacchi and sold into prostitution. Her first customer drugged and raped her unconscious body.
Sonali now has a job she enjoys which provides for her needs as well as opportunities to further her education.
Human trafficking is the third largest illicit industry after arms and drugs. In 2010 Interpol said human trafficking and illicit migration is a $28 billion enterprise. The definition of illicit trade included those trapped in modern slavery, sexual exploitation, or organ harvesting.
India is a source, destination and transit point for men, women and children who are coerced into forced labour and sex trafficking. A 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report published by the U.S. Department of State, Diplomacy in Action states that the forced labor of an estimated 20 to 65 million citizens constitutes India’s largest trafficking problem; men, women, and children in debt bondage are forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories.
Bashanti*, a daughter of poverty-stricken parents, was sold into the sex trade by her mother, sacrificed so the rest of the family could eat. Unfortunately, many families in extreme poverty situations are forced to make this kind of heart-wrenching choice. Human traffickers seek out vulnerable populations to exploit.
Once rescued and after learning to sew and using that skill for her job, Bashanti is able to support herself with dignity and send money to help support her family.
For ages, the commercial sex trade has been the chief destination for trafficked girls. According to a report by the India’s Ministry for Women and Child Development, there are nearly 2.5 million prostitutes in nearly 300,000 brothels in 1,100 red-light areas across the country.
The Indian state of West Bengal had the maximum human trafficking cases in 2013. Damning evidence is provided by a United Nations on Drug and Crime (UNODC) which states that out of over 19,000 women and children reported missing in West Bengal in 2011, only 6,000 could be traced. West Bengal’s geographical location – a huge porous international border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan – makes it more susceptible to trafficking.
Freeset, a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade, is located in Sonagacchi, Asia’s largest red-light district. Within a few square miles more than 10,000 women stand in line selling their bodies to thousands of men who visit daily. Many of the women here are trafficked from Bangladesh, Nepal and rural India.
Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids, the 2004 Academy Award winner in the Documentary Feature category opens a window into the squalid reality of this corner of the world.
Made for Freedom sources T-shirts from Freeset. Every woman who finds freedom through Freeset also brings freedom to her family from a vicious cycle of poverty and abuse. Though employment and fair wages girls like Sonali and Bashanti are able to fight their circumstances and have hope for a better future. Every purchase truly impacts and empowers women's lives across the globe. Thank you for joining our community of world changers!
*A pseudonym is used to protect the confidentiality of the victim