Friends, celebrate with us because five women are free today in India!
In a country struggling with poverty and the effects of COVID lockdown on an already fragile economy, women are making choices out of desperation.
Their story of betrayal was especially bitter for Hitu, Ihina, Tike.* They were offered arranged marriages, each communicated and coordinated by three women they thought they could trust. The hard reality is that these three traffickers may have been selling others to avoid their own exploitation.
Hitu, Ihina, and Tike were transported to a brothel, not to the homes of middle-class businessmen seeking wives, as they had expected. To settle for a transactional marriage, for life, was never a part of their childhood dreams. But times are hard now, and choices had to be made.
Survival became the focus, and dreams were let go.
Other Indian teens growing up in more privileged families went on to finish school and attend college. Some went to America or the UK, where they launched careers, started families, and experienced a new level of prosperity.
But Iniya continued on her path of hourly jobs.
By the time she was twenty, Iniya’s stooped posture had reflected years of hard work.
COVID-19 changed everything. The jobs became scarce as the country locked down in defense of this pandemic sweeping the globe. There was barely enough to eat, and the idle hours turned into idle days, which turned into idle months.
It was her desperation that led her to accept a job offer in another city. The hope of a domestic job, though it would still pay so little to cook and clean, would at least be something to count on each day.
She boarded the bus, tentative, but left with little choice.
And that was how Iniya was trafficked — lured with the hope of opportunity.
She was housed with four other women her age; bewildered and vulnerable, they could only endure one day at a time. The “job offer” was nothing but a trap. The “job” was nothing but abuse.
But Sudir, director of India for The Exodus Road, has spent his adult years actively looking for women like Iniya. His team, ever vigilant, found signs of human trafficking at a hotel and began investigations immediately.
Just nine days later, they had delivered evidence to police, and police rallied teams and a social worker for the operation.
By the early hours of a red dawn, Iniya and the other four women were found and rescued! Together they were taken to a safe home where their needs will be assessed.
And three male traffickers were arrested. Their attempt at bribery – even as they were led to the police cars – fell on deaf ears.
The message is clear in this corner of India: human trafficking will not be tolerated.
Thank you for standing with our national team, supporting the work of freedom, and prioritizing each and every rescue. We are so grateful!
*Names, images, and some details are representational.