Last week, JVI and its local partners freed Jyothi,* a 14 year old girl who was forced into domestic servitude at the tender age of nine when she was trafficked to Delhi from her hometown of Odisha in 2010. Jyothi was sold by an employment agency to her owner, and forbidden to see her family for the last five years. Not only was Jyothi denied any wages for the last five years she worked as a domestic servant, but her owner claimed that Jyothi had to pay off the equivalent of two years’ worth of wages he paid as a commission fee to the employment agency to buy her.
Once JVI staff learned from locals in the area about Jyothi, they initiated contact with her. However, since she was only able to speak to JVI staff when her employer was not home, it took about two weeks for the JVI rescue team to speak with Jyothi and verify her story. On July 30, JVI received a tip that Jyothi’s employer was preparing to leave for vacation and would be moving Jyothi to a relative’s house. This news prompted the JVI rescue team to move swiftly and obtain a government order to rescue Jyothi immediately, knowing that they would risk losing Jyothi altogether if she was moved to another location.
As the rescue team approached the employer’s home, they saw Jyothi alone on the balcony, looking hopeful as she saw them coming toward her. Shortly thereafter, the employers arrived with a large entourage, and demanded the rescue team show legal identification, insisting that they did nothing wrong. As the crowd grew increasingly hostile, the local police intervened and ordered the employer to release Jyothi, and for all parties to reconvene at the police station for further inquiry.
At the police station, young Jyothi boldly shared her story of being trafficked and sold into domestic slavery, and the abusive hardship she endured over the last five years. Jyothi remained strong, even in the face of cruel remarks by one of the employer’s friends who commented that, “Even when you look after a dog for five years, they would be grateful to the owner, but this girl is so ungrateful after being given good clothes and good food.”
Based on Jyothi’s statement and JVI’s support, the proper legal reports were filed, and Jyothi was released to a government aftercare home. JVI is currently working on safely reuniting Jyothi back with her family.
*Name changed to protect the identity of trafficking survivor.