Posted on April 26 2018
WARNING – THE FOLLOWING POST HANDLES VERY DISTRESSING SUBJECTS.
We feel that is is very important to explain in detail the extent of the abuse the Coco Bombay girls have experienced. They are not just numbers or documentary statistics, they are real people who are now my wonderful friends and whom I love. It is so important for me to spread the word of what is happening to sex trafficked women every day across the world. If this means that some readers are disturbed and horrified then I make no apologies for this.
Dipika was born in a very poor village in the mountains in the North Eastern Indian state of Assam. When she was six years old, she was told that she couldn’t continue at school as her parents couldn’t afford to send her anymore. She was devastated as she absolutely loved to studying. One of her neighbors heard about this and he told her that he could take her to Mumbai where she would be able to enroll in school. People in rural India see Mumbai as the land of Bollywood with big lights and opportunities. For six year old Dipika, Mumbai was the place where dreams were made. The neighbor warned her that she mustn’t tell her parents so one night the little girl packed a few clothes and ran away with him.
The man brought Dipika to Mumbai and took her to a home where he said she would soon be enrolled in school but in the meantime she must earn her keep by looking after the family’s children and doing the household chores. As the weeks passed by, she would see the children of the family going to school and when she asked when she would be joining them she was beaten and given even more work. Dipika soon realised that her dreams of going to school were not going to happen. She lived as their slave for two years barely being given any food to eat.
One day the family decided to leave Mumbai. They didn’t need the now eight year old Dipika anymore, so came up with the idea to sell her to a dance bar. She very quickly found herself sold into in the largest Red Light area in Mumbai and in fact all of Asia, the notorious ‘Kamathipura’. As a minor, she was kept as a prisoner inside the rooms, hidden from the public as it is illegal to keep underage prostitutes (despite the fact that it is going on everywhere). She was forced to have sex (was raped) with countless men. Although she tried fighting against it, she was unable to escape and by nine years old she was already infected with HIV.
After years of abuse, one day a customer came to her who was in fact working as an undercover agent for an organisation that wanted to save her. After a long process of gaining her trust, he heard her story and planned a raid on the brothel. What an outsider will not notice in the brothels is that the walls are actually hidden doors with cupboards inside. When a raid like this would happen, Dipika and other underage girls would be thrown into these cupboards. Anyone who is trapped in there suffocates and loses consciousness as there is no air (which works very well for the brothel keepers as the girls won’t make a sound). In a previous raid, on regaining consciousness in the cupboard, Dipika had started to scream, but they had not heard her and she was subsequently burnt with cigarette stubs and badly beaten as punishment. This time Dipika was not going to let them not hear her. She started screaming and shouting through the wall until her last breath of consciousness. The police officer heard her and she was finally rescued. She was nearly dead when they pulled her out of the tiny cupboard where she had been for hours.
Embarking on her new free life, Dipika was put into a government home and given counseling. Now twenty five, although she has been free since she was twelve years old, every day she has to live with the horrors of what she went through. When she was twenty one, our charity managed to track down approximately where she had come from. She didn’t remember anything or even what her name had been. They travelled up to Assam to try and reunite her with her family. As she entered the village, someone looked at her and asked ‘aren’t you Sowenso’s daughter?’ as apparently she looks a lot like her father which then lead her to her family. By that time her father had died but she had three siblings. As her mother only speaks the rural dialect, they could not communicate. Dipikia could not bring herself to refer to her mother as ‘ma’ as tragically she is a stranger to her. Dipika dreams of giving her sister an education.
She was trained to be a hair stylist and she dreams of having her own salon some day. She is excited about her future and her drive to succeed shines from her. A couple of times when I wouldn’t stop talking she told me ‘Didi (big sister) please we will talk after my studies’. Dipika is so warm, outgoing and vibrant. She is so focused, it is so incredibly inspiring and I absolutely love her.