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Justice for Gita as Two Traffickers are Found Guilty

conviction, India, Kolkata, South Asia

Written by IJM
Posted on 07 June 2019 under Recent posts, Sex trafficking.

On 31 May, a Kolkata Court sentenced two perpetrators to 10 years in prison for trafficking 14-year-old Gita* from Bangladesh into an Indian brothel.

The judgment ends a four-year legal battle and reaffirms for this brave survivor that she is indeed worth fighting for.

Gita had grown up in poverty in Bangladesh, where she had to drop out of school in Year 4 after her father struggled to make ends meet. Later, a neighbour told her family about a well-paying job across the border in India, and 14-year-old Gita agreed to go and send funds home.

In December 2015, Gita’s neighbour passed her off to a man named Ahmed, who walked her to the Indian border and took her across illegally after dark. They travelled several miles through the brush and then waded across a river to avoid detection, which Gita described as “a near-death experience” where she almost drowned. They kept walking—drenched and terrified—until camping at a small village for the night.

Morning light brought even more terror: Gita was taken from the village to Sonagachi, the biggest red-light district in Kolkata. She was locked in a room with a strange man. When she refused to take off her clothes, he forced himself on her, raped her, and left.

Gita ran from the room sobbing and came across a group of police officers who were in the brothel conducting an inspection. The brothel managers had threatened her not to reveal she was from Bangladesh, but Gita tearfully begged the officers for help. Police acted quickly to bring Gita to safety and, on the same day, coordinated the arrest of Ahmed and Gita’s neighbour who had facilitated her trafficking.

Over the next few days, authorities referred Gita to IJM’s team in Kolkata for legal support and counselling. At first, she refused to share her story. But after spending a month with IJM’s lawyers and social workers, she began to trust them and finally shared the truth.

Gita not only shared her story to IJM, but also bravely testified in court as her case went to trial. Her advocate, Piyali Mukerjhee, describes,

“The court conducted an in-camera (private) trial to protect Gita and ensure a safe hearing. None of us could be present to support her, but Gita bravely answered all the defence lawyer’s questions, down to the smallest of details.”

She remained brave even when her mother arrived in India—intent on convincing Gita to drop out of the trial and forgive their neighbour. Gita decided to stay strong and fight for justice for what she endured. Once she completed her testimony, she was able to return to Bangladesh in February 2017 and rejoin her family safely.

From there, Gita’s case met many other setbacks in court—from transferred judges to delay tactics by the defence attorney. Her legal team remained faithful until the convictions came through on 31 May 2019. Both Ahmed and Gita’s neighbour were convicted under India’s anti-trafficking laws, sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay monetary damages to Gita.

Saji Philip, Director of Operations, IJM Kolkata says,

“The sensitivity and proactivity of the police, judiciary, and the public prosecutor has been instrumental in securing justice in this case … These consistent rates of convictions have changed the atmosphere of impunity in Kolkata.”

*A pseudonym.

Header image is an IJM stock photo and does not depict an IJM client or survivor of sex trafficking.

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