KOLKATA, INDIA – Four years after being kidnapped and trafficked for sex, Nasima* has reclaimed her life and is moving forward—thanks in part to the proactivity and generosity of her public justice system.
The trial against the traffickers is still ongoing, but Kolkata’s courts have already shown Nasima she matters. They have awarded her more than A$20,000 in compensation at various stages of her journey. And while these record-setting funds can never truly heal her painful past, for a strong young woman like Nasima, they are helping spark a braver and bolder new future.
A Stolen Childhood
Nasima grew up in a small town in West Bengal state and remembers her childhood as happy and surrounded by loving family. She was only 14 years old when, in December 2014, she went with her sister-in-law to a doctor’s appointment and everything changed.
“I was waiting outside for her while she was in with the doctor. A man beckoned me to come over,” she remembers painfully.
“He said he had some work for me … but he covered my face and hit me and I fell unconscious. When I woke up, I saw I was in Delhi. I asked him about our whereabouts, and then he told me that he sold me off.”
Horrified and now 2,200 kilometres from home, Nasima was taken to an unassuming home and left under the control of a man who planned to sell her for sex.
“It was a house with two rooms,” she remembers. “I was kept imprisoned in one of the rooms. The doors and windows were locked … The person who sold me lived there with his wife, three sons and two daughters. They were not allowed to talk to me.”
“When the first customer approached me, I said to him,
‘Please don’t do this to me. I can’t do this with you. I don’t do this type of work.’
The customer went back to speak with the owner. Then I was beaten up and raped by the customer. There was a lot of blood.”
Nasima lived in this cycle of rape and abuse for the next year. She tried to escape several times through an open window, but hurt herself and was quickly recaptured. That’s when the physical violence escalated.
“When they pressured me to engage in sexual activities, I would refuse and they would beat me up with a stick. My legs swelled up from the beatings,” she describes sorrowfully. “I thought I would die there. I would never see my family again, or even see the sun.”
It was after one of these severe beatings, in December 2015, that Nasima’s plight finally changed.
Exhausted from the frequent abuse, her young body suddenly fell sick with a high fever. Her captors were forced to take her to a Delhi hospital. But when a doctor told them Nasima’s injuries required surgery, they abandoned her.
Staff also discovered Nasima had contracted HIV and would need ongoing care. This doctor took pity on Nasima and began treating her for free, and that’s when she confessed the truth about what was happening.
Fourteen-year-old Nasima was trafficked from her hometown and sold to sex traffickers in an unassuming apartment in Delhi, where she was raped and abused for one year.
As she waits for the trial to conclude, Nasima has focused on rebuilding her life in freedom and helping other girls stay free.
“The police also visited me … enquiring about what happened and how I ended up in Delhi. I told them everything,” she remembers. “A week later, [the pimp] came to look for me. I took this opportunity to tell the police this was the family that was torturing me, forcing me into sexual relations. The police listened, and they arrested those people at the hospital.”
IJM became involved in Nasima’s case when police asked our team to help with the legal case and with her transition back to Kolkata.
“I met Nasima for the first time at the hospital,” remembers IJM’s Babita Simon, who has provided her ongoing aftercare support. “She was so weak that she could barely stand upright for more than a minute.”
IJM worked with a local NGO to support Nasima’s recuperation in the hospital and helped contact her family back in Kolkata. Nasima’s mother flew out to stay with her until she was strong, and they returned to Kolkata together in January 2016.
Supported and Standing Strong
In May 2017, IJM’s legal team began supporting public prosecutors in the legal trial against the trafficker who kidnapped Nasima and the man who held her hostage in the Delhi apartment. It was an emotional process for this young survivor, but she felt ready to brave the intimidating courtroom with encouragement from her IJM social workers.
“The didis (sisters) from IJM are very nice. They escorted me to court every time I had to give witness,” she says. “The defense lawyer threatened me … and said I was lying about everything. That’s when the judge said to me,
‘Don’t fear them, dear. Everything that happened to you was unfair. Just tell them everything.’”
Nasima has experienced this kind of compassion and support from many levels of her state’s public justice system, with state leaders stepping up to support her recovery in a major way.
After her legal case began garnering attention, Nasima has received generous compensation from the state’s Chief Minister, from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and from a local court. To date, she has received nearly 1,000,000 rupees (about A$20,000) to help her heal. The interim compensation she was awarded in court (300,000 rupees – about A$6,220) is the highest IJM Kolkata has seen in one of our sex trafficking cases.
As she waits for the trial to conclude, Nasima has focused on rebuilding her life in freedom and helping other girls stay free. Her family has welcomed her home with open arms and without any stigma about her experience—which not all survivors enjoy. Her medical treatment for managing HIV is covered by the government, so Nasima has used part of her court compensation to construct a new house for her parents. She’s saving the rest to invest in her education and, someday, on her wedding.
Nasima’s IJM lawyer, Sharon Madame, shares,
“Nasima inspires me. She has never given up. With all the injustice that has happened to her, she harbours no bitterness toward anyone, or even life. I love the smile she constantly wears—the smile that defeats the giant of injustice.”
With a desire to help others, Nasima has spoken to groups of other teen girls in nearby villages about the risks of human trafficking and how to stay safe. She has also shared her story as part of a local television program. She says, “I do my part and, if they are warned, it’s good for them … It feels nice when I see them listening to my story.”
Babita shares happily, “Look at her today—so confident, sharing her story so boldly. She refused to give in to fear, but kept pressing forward toward victory.”
When asked about her journey, Nasima smiles, “It is long and there is more to be done, my case is still on trial, but I am very patient.”
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