Posted on April 09 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 Rags Tribe 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.
Nalini is a around 5 feet tall, tiny and thin which somehow makes her story all the worse.
Nalini grew up in a temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. She was found abandoned at the temple doorsteps by the priests when she was a couple of months old. All memories of her childhood were at this temple. She has no recollection of her father or mother, but when she grew old enough to ask about them, she was told that her mother was a ‘possessed’ woman who used to run around the streets naked and screaming. To me this sounds like her mother suffered from mental illness, however, Nalini was also told she would turn out to be exactly like her mother. She grew up with the fear (and still has the fear) that she will suffer the same fate. They discovered that both of her parents were dead by the time she was found.
She grew up at the temple and lived off handouts and any charity from people who visited. The priests looked after her and when she grew up a little they let her stay at the temple in exchange for cleaning and cooking for them. Nalini never went to school and so was completely illiterate. When she was twelve years old, a soldier came visiting and paid her attention (something she had never been given before)…sadly she thought that she was in love with him. He subsequently raped her. She realised that she was pregnant and the soldier vanished.
Journey to India
By the age of fourteen she had a baby girl and was cleaning people’s homes as well as the temple in order to have shelter for her and her daughter. One day a man came to the temple from India saying that he would take her to India where she could stay with his sister and she could have a job with her as a maid. He told her that she could raise her child there and rather than just working for free like she had her whole life, she would get paid and be able to have some security for the first time. For a fourteen year old girl who was looking after a baby and had been forced to become a woman well before her years, she thought that this was a good option…and she went with him, she knew no-one would even know she had disappeared.
The man brought her to Pune, a city three hours away from Mumbai. The home she was brought to was actually a brothel keepers home. He had tricked her. He left her there and it was only when she asked the brothel keeper what was happening and why all the women were dressed up like this, that she was finally told the truth about where she was…also totally oblivious that she was now trapped in a brothel. She refused to entertain customers and fought back. All trafficked girls go through a process which is called ‘breaking in’. This usually involves gang raping so that they are terrified into working. They are also told that as they have now been used by multiple men they can never return back to their old lives. Nalini was gang raped continuously for a year. She fought and fought and would not surrender to being a prostitute. Her daughter was there the whole time with these horrors happening next to her. Finally the brothel realised that Nalini was becoming a liability for them as she wasn’t earning much money. However any customers who would come to the brothel requesting a gang rape would choose her as she was and still is beautiful (yes if paying for sex from an underage sex trafficked woman isn’t bad enough, there are many men sick enough to want to pay for gang rape.) Nalini never saw any of this money. The only time she had some ‘relief’ from the cigarette stubs, torture and beatings would be when she would agree to see a customer. Entertaining as a prostitute was a good day for her compared to the alternative.
In this year, Nalini contracted HIV and she was then sold off to a brothel here in Sonapur Red Light District in Mumbai. It surprised me that pimps don’t seem to care if a prostitute has HIV. I suppose the customers know it is inevitable that the prostitutes they use will probably have HIV or AIDS and it is their choice if they want to use a condom (which many don’t). By this time, seventeen year old Nalini realised that there was no point in her screaming or resisting because 1. she had HIV and 2. she needed to earn money for her and her child. She started drinking a lot of alcohol and taking drugs so that she could somehow deal with seeing customers. Whenever she refused a customer, old men were forced on her which disgusted her.
Nalini says that you would often find her drunk lying in her own vomit on the side of the road. Meanwhile her daughter was growing up being raised by all the prostitutes in the area. Nalini had started to notice men and pimps in the area looking at her daughter as she was becoming very beautiful. One day her daughter went missing. Nalini became hysterical as she searched for her, and when her daughter reappeared that evening, Nalini handed her over to an organisation that takes children to live in an orphanage which provides them with an education. Nalini signed an agreement that her child will be in their care until she is eighteen. She regularly visits the child who is now ten years old. She has grown taller than Nalini and now calls her ‘Didi’ which means big sister. This breaks Nalini’s heart as she does not see her as her mother. She is however happy that her daughter is safe from the fate that would have been inevitable in Sonapur. She often says that if she were to do it all again she would make the same choices.
Nalini spent a shocking eight years in the brothel in Sonapur. I went to the filthy room where she had spent all her days and nights and I felt sick. Purnata, the amazing organisation that Rags Tribe is working with, was working in the area and had been trying to connect with Nalini. There was one woman who had fallen in love with one of her customers and he had given her some investment to start her own business. Purnata taught her to be a seamstress and she escaped her life of prostitution. At their wedding Purnata had taken many of the women from the area to the celebration to try and show them that they could help them and that there was a way out. This inspired Nalini and in 2016 she left the area. Despite not having any education she is incredibly intelligent. She is amazing at maths and she loves English. She is now sitting her 10th grade exams. She has also been trained to be a seamstress and is one of the girls now sewing the garments for Rags Tribe.
As I have spent time with her she has slowly warmed to me and I love that she now comes to talk to me whereas at the beginning she was so so shy. I realised after a few weeks in her company that she understands everything I am saying! Despite her new start, her horrific past traumas plague her every day. She sometimes loses all of her memory and speech, zoning out into another world. Slowly she is growing in confidence and everyone has hope for her future.