trafficked_280Against the backdrop of an emerging India as a player in global markets, a reported 100 million people have been involved in human trafficking. Girls as young as 10 years old, frequently from the poorest backgrounds, are being kidnapped and sold off to brothels, sometimes by their own families.  

This project explores the stories of a number of girls and young women who have been rescued from the brothels of Mumbai and Pune to be reintegrated into society and, if appropriate, to return home. In doing so it touches on the social, economic and cultural issues that affect contemporary India.

In June 2010, I traveled to Mumbai, India to undertake a project on human trafficking into prostitution. I worked closely with a local NGO, the Rescue Foundation, and the girls in their protective homes in Mumbai and Boisar.  

I wanted to understand the reasons for this epidemic; Why was this happening? How was it happening? And to hear of first hand experiences from the girls. I heard many stories of poverty, bad families, deception by friends and families, kidnappings and horrific experiences on trafficking routes. Sometimes the girls had left their homes of their own will, other times they were running away from violent husbands or simply in search of a better life. The stories differed but one commonality existed: they had all been deceived.  

Now they were in a surreal place between two worlds – a former life and the start of a new one. The girls spoke of naseeb, meaning fate or luck in Hindi. It was their naseeb they were in this situation but also naseeb that they managed to escape.  

Whether they were forced to work as prostitutes and tortured to do so or if they managed to escape the traffickers, they were now in a situation where they could begin a new life and learn skills to enable them to be independent upon release. Many girls could simply not return home to their families for fear of being castigated. Others were pregnant or HIV positive.   

The girls shared very personal details and openly spoke of their experiences, for which I am very grateful.

This short film is a prelude to a longer documentary which will be released soon.

Words, photographs and film by Sonal Kantaria.