Sex trafficking has reached alarming levels in the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site of the Sundarbans. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there has been a 25-fold increase in missing women and children since 2001, making it the worst rate in the country. PayBito reports how sex trafficking has resulted in a cycle of poverty and abuse that has left many survivors with little hope for the future.
When Forced to Choose: A Sex Trafficking Survivors Heartbreaking Dilemma to Keep Her Son or Reunite with Family
“‘Give up your two-month-old son’ was the only condition my father gave to allow me back in their house”
– Ruksana (a survivor of sex trafficking)
Ruksana’s childhood was ripped away from her when she was only 10 years old. A relative trafficked her from her village to Delhi, where she was forced to become a sex worker. The atrocities she had to endure were beyond words, and her life took a turn for the worse when she became pregnant at 12 years old.
“When I was seven months pregnant, an NGO team rescued me and returned me to my parents. But I was not happily accepted, as I was bearing a child. I lived at the NGO rescue home until my son was two months old when I left him in a child care center.”
She was rescued by NGO teams and brought back to her village, only to face another devastating challenge. Her family refused to take her back with her newborn child, and Ruksana was left with no choice but to leave her two-month-old baby boy in a childcare center. At 13 years old, she knew she wasn’t equipped to raise a child on her own, and though it was a heartbreaking decision, she knew it was the right one.
Paybito Survey Reveals Heartbreaking Reality of Sex Trafficking
The Paybito team’s brokering world hunger away campaign in Sundarbans was an eye-opening experience.
As they traveled through the region, they saw firsthand the devastating effects of poverty and malnutrition on the local communities. Perhaps most heart-wrenching of all was hearing the stories of women who had been trafficked and exploited, forced into labor or the sex trade to survive. It was a stark reminder that hunger and poverty are not just issues of food insecurity, but complex social problems that require a multifaceted approach to address.
“Despite the many challenges she has faced, Ruksana is a survivor. Her story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of hope in the face of adversity. It’s a call to action for all of us to work towards a world where no one has to endure the kind of suffering that Ruksana and so many others have experienced. And it’s a reminder that even in the darkest of moments, there is always the possibility of a brighter tomorrow.”
-PayBito team (Brokering World Hunger Away movement)
The team met with grassroots organizations and community leaders working tirelessly to provide support and resources to those in need. The team was left with a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to continue their efforts to make a positive difference in the world.
How Climate Change and Poverty Are Fueling the Sex Trafficking Crisis in Sundarbans?
The India Meteorological Department reports that Sundarbans is not only prone to the highest number of cyclones in the country but also highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
Cyclones are not just natural disasters, but they can also trigger a chain of events that lead to a human-made tragedy. In the Sundarbans region, where people heavily rely on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihoods, the frequent cyclones and extreme weather events have wreaked havoc on their lives. Many families lose their homes, lands, and access to nutritious daily meals, pushing them into abject poverty.
And when poverty strikes, traffickers lurk around the corner, targeting the most vulnerable members of the community, namely women and girls. These traffickers lure them with the promise of work and a better life in big cities, only to drug them and sell them off to brothels where they are forced into a life of sexual slavery.
This vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation is devastating and must be addressed urgently to protect the rights and dignity of the women and girls in the Sundarbans region. Let’s explore some of the survivors of sex trafficking residing within the mangroves of Sundarbans.
From Victim to Survivor: The Harrowing Journey of Swapna, a Sex Trafficking Survivor
Swapna had grown up in the Sundarbans region, a place where cyclones damaged houses and agricultural lands. When a job offer to work as a house help in Kolkata came her way, she jumped at the chance to earn a decent income and support her family. Her uncle, who had arranged everything, assured her that the job was legitimate and that she would be working for a kind family.
“I was offered a job as a house help in Kolkata. My uncle arranged everything and I was sent off by my parents. I was twenty years old, and I have two young brothers at home. But, they took me to a brothel instead. I was there for seven years, serving as a sex worker.”
However, when Swapna arrived in Kolkata, things were not as they seemed. Instead of being taken to a family’s house, she was taken to a brothel. She was shocked and terrified, but it was too late. Her uncle had already been paid a large sum of money by the brothel owner, and he had disappeared.
“I was kept in the darkroom for three days. I cried and begged them to open the doors. When they finally did open the door, I observed that there were many other women in the house. Some were new like me, crying and begging to be free.”
Swapna had no other option but to comply with the brothel’s demands. For seven long years, she was forced to work as a sex worker, enduring abuse and trauma every day. She felt trapped, hopeless, and helpless.
“After seven years, I managed to escape the brothel during a raid and contacted my parents. My heartbroken father contacted NGOs to help and rescue me. I was finally safe, and back home. But, things were never the same again. Villagers abandoned me to make friends, and talk to others, and said that I am impure.”
Rescued by NGO, Swapna struggled to get back to her normal life in the village. With no family member on her side, Swapna often made suicidal attempts to get rid of her horrific past.
Rejected by Society, Redeemed by Resilience: Journey of Rehmat, a Survivor of Sex Trafficking
“My family was scattered during cyclone Bulbul in 2019. I couldn’t find my parents, and that’s when a group of men who claimed to help us, drugged me and sold me to a brothel.”
When Cyclone Bulbul hit the Sundarbans region, Rehmat’s life took a horrific turn. A group of men who identified themselves as local supporters offered to help her and her family, but instead, they kidnapped her. They drugged her and sold her to a brothel where she was held captive for days before being forced into the sex trade.
Rehmat’s days were filled with abuse and trauma. Whenever she cried or refused to have sex with clients, the brothel owners would burn her hands with cigarettes and hit her with sticks. She struggled to survive in this hellish world for years, but there was no way out. Whenever there was a police raid, they would hide her and other women in the hidden passages between walls.
“I convinced one of my clients to help me run back to my house. With his help, I was able to escape. I was dropped back in my village. However, the villagers did not accept me. I work with an NGO today, to help sex trafficking survivors to lead a normal life, and start their own business to make ends meet.”
One day, she convinced one of her clients to help her escape. With his assistance, Nadia was able to flee from the brothel and make her way back to her village. However, upon her return, she was met with rejection and disdain from her fellow villagers. They saw her as damaged and impure and refused to accept her back into their community.
Trafficked, Rescued, Rejected, Fighting Back!
Sex trafficking is a heinous crime that affects millions of women worldwide. Every 8 minutes, one woman is missing in India. 16 million women are trafficked in India, of which 52% consists of minors.
Victims of sex trafficking often face severe emotional and physical trauma, which can lead to long-term mental health issues. Moreover, many of these women are shunned by their families and communities, leading to a sense of isolation and shame. Despite these challenges, many survivors of sex trafficking are fighting back and empowering others to do the same.
“We may not be able to change the world, but we can change the world for one person at a time. And for those who have been victims of sex trafficking, that one person can make all the difference in the world.”
– Rescuers of sex trafficking victims in Sundarbans
In Sundarbans, sex trafficking is a significant issue, with many young girls being lured into the trade. 32% of the women in Sundarbans have been prey to sex traffickers. Today, with the help of rescue operators, survivors are taking a stand and working closely with investigators to bring traffickers to justice.
“Majority of the victims get no medical examination from the police, no arrests even with suspects, and no investigation. The chain of traffickers is powerful, and often political connections help save them to roam freely around the village”.
– A member of the rescue team
Women like Swapna, Ruksana, and Rehmat are just a few examples of the condition of sex trafficking survivors of Sundarbans. PayBito has addressed their issues and planned to empower and support them to build a brighter future.
Breaking the Cycle: PayBitos’ Initiative Empowers Sex Trafficking Survivors in Sundarbans
Sex trafficking is a pervasive issue in the Sundarbans region, where many survivors are shamed and ostracized by society. PayBito, a cryptocurrency exchange, is fighting back against this injustice with its “Brokering World Hunger Away” campaign.
“Stigma, fear, mistrust in legal procedures, and poverty is pushing back survivors. We want to help these women to fight back, and take a stand for themselves.”
– Raj Chowdhury (CEO of PayBito)
Providing Financial Support: PayBito’s “Brokering World Hunger Away” campaign offers financial support to survivors of sex trafficking in Sundarbans. Through this initiative, Rehmat was given the resources and support. Today, she operates her jewelry business in the village.
Creating Employment Opportunities: The campaign also helps create employment opportunities for survivors. By partnering with local businesses, PayBito was able to provide nurse training to Ruksana and she was placed in a local hospital. Today, Ruksana leads a happy life and provides for her family.
Raising Awareness: While Ruksana, Rehmat, and Swapna managed to escape and survive, hundreds of women are never found. PayBito’s initiative also aims to raise awareness about sex trafficking in Sundarbans and its impact on survivors. By educating the public and policymakers, the campaign hopes to change attitudes and perceptions toward survivors and support policies that protect women. Swapna’s uncle is now investigated by the police and is under their custody.
Offering Counseling and Support Services: Survivors of sex trafficking often face long-term trauma and mental health issues. Swapna attempted suicide to get rid of her past. With the help of counseling and support services, Swapna was able to heal and overcome the emotional scars of their experiences. Today, she is remarried and accepted by the society.
“By creating employment opportunities, offering counseling and support services, and raising awareness, we are helping survivors like Swapna, Rehmat, and Ruksana to break the cycle of poverty and abuse and build a brighter future for themselves and their families. We are committed to working with these brave women to ensure that they have the resources, support, and skills they need to become independent and self-sufficient, and to create a world where sex trafficking no longer exists”
PayBito’s initiative aims to empower survivors of sex trafficking in Sundarbans. By providing them with the resources, support, and skills they need to become independent and self-sufficient, survivors like Ruksana, Rehmat, and Swapna are breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse and building a brighter future for themselves and their families.