Ritu* grew up in a small village in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. She was brought up in a conservative Muslim family along with her four siblings. Ritu was in the fifth grade when her parents decided to take her out of school. She was taught tailoring and was assigned household chores. When Ritu was 17 years old, she was at a local store when she crossed paths with Rishi*, a Hindu boy from her village. The two exchanged numbers and began speaking regularly. Living in a conservative Muslim neighborhood, their friendship was frowned upon not only by the community, but by her parents as well. In June of 2018, Ritu was caught talking to Rishi on the phone and was beaten by her father. Upset, she packed all her belongings and left for the nearest railway station.
Ritu reached the station unaware of what to do next. As she wandered about the platform trying to figure out where she would go, she caught the attention of two men who approached and initiated conversation with her. Upon learning about Ritu’s situation, the men immediately offered her a job at a beauty salon and a place to stay for the night. Ritu was hesitant at first but agreed to go with the men as it was getting dark and she had nowhere else to go. Once they reached the house, the two men attempted to sexually abuse Ritu. For two days, Ritu was trapped inside, then sold to a woman for about $2,000. Ritu was taken to the woman’s residence where she was assigned household chores. In time, Ritu was coerced by the family to move to a large city in India with another family member. The living situation, to Ritu’s surprise, was a brothel. Ritu was sexually exploited and forced to entertain customers. Ritu was not paid directly by the customers but was promised half the payment on a monthly basis by the brothel owner. After a week of working in the brothel, Ritu told the brothel owner she wanted to leave. But, Ritu was told that she owed $170 for rent. Since she had no money, Ritu was forced to continue working in the brothel. Ritu often thought of reaching out to her family for help but was ashamed to tell them the situation she was in. She would call home just to hear her parents’ voice but never uttered a word. Ritu was forced to attend to customers day after day not knowing if she would ever see her parents again.
In recent weeks, JVI and two local partners conducted a raid where Ritu was rescued. The rescue team found her on the terrace of the targeted building hiding under a bed. Ritu was immediately evacuated from the brothel and was placed in an aftercare home. JVI’s Aftercare team is following up with Ritu to help her cope with trauma through professional counseling. She has shown signs of improvement and is starting to share her story with the team. JVI is currently preparing Ritu to testify in court. Ritu is now one of the many survivors in JVI’s aftercare program. Over the next two years she will receive rehabilitative assistance and ongoing support.
*name changed to protect privacy