At the age of 9, Lavina* lost her father to a brain tumor which immediately plunged the family into a deep financial crisis. Her mother worked as a daily wage laborer at a paper bag facility but only earned $4 a day; not enough to sustain the family. Lavina dropped out of school desperately looking for work to support her family. That was when she got in touch with Yusuf. He offered her lucrative job options if she would travel with him from Bangladesh to India.
Yusuf led Lavina across the border into West Bengal (India) and took her into a house, where she was given a room for the night. However, the next morning, Lavina found that she had been locked inside the room. She yelled and screamed for help but to no avail.
After three days, she was finally allowed out of the room but was confronted by two unknown men. Yusuf was nowhere in sight. At that moment, Lavina realized that she had been sold to these men. One of the men named Babu, began putting vermillion on Lavina’s forehead and sets of bangles on her hands. Lavina was being dressed like an Indian bride to avoid suspicion as they travelled to Baruipur, West Bengal.
Babu took Lavina to a redlight area in Baruipur and placed her in a brothel where he sexually abused her. The next day, Lavina was instructed to sexually engage with customers but she refused. As a result, he poured boiling water on her.
Babu began sending Lavina to various apartments in neighboring areas where she was forced to sexually engage with 5-6 customers in a day for as little as $7. She never received any money that was paid by the customers. When she asked Babu for money, he told her to first pay him the $1,400 he paid to Yusuf for her and that she would have to work for him until she paid back the entire amount.
For several months, Lavina remained at the brothel. A regular customer named Raju told her he had feelings for her and offered to help her escape. She agreed and with Raju’s help, Lavina managed to escape the brothel. Sadly, Raju was another trafficker posing as a customer. He ran a brothel which exclusively had Bangladeshi minors for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Unlike the previous brothel which was situated in a red-light area, this one was a private brothel where only select customers were entertained.
Lavina found herself in a helpless situation yet again. She was all alone in a foreign country surrounded by people who exploited her with impunity and no money to send back home. She began to lose hope of ever visiting her mother or returning home.
Lavina’s story turned around when JVI and local partners learned of her situation and reported it to the police authorities, prompting a rescue intervention. On September 19th, 2019, JVI and partners assisted in the rescue intervention conducted by the police in Baruipur, West Bengal where Lavina and another Bangladeshi minor girl were rescued from the brothel.
Raju was apprehended during the rescue and confessed to running a sex racket of Bangladeshi minors. During his interrogation, Raju exposed both Babu and Yusuf.
The two girls were immediately taken to a hospital. Representatives from the Child Welfare Committee placed both girls in a shelter home and passed orders permitting JVI to provide aftercare and legal support to the survivors. JVI lawyers have been closely coordinating with the district administration and local police to ensure criminal charges are filed against Raju, Babu and Yusuf.
As Lavina finds herself in yet another environment, JVI aftercare staff and partners are making efforts to help her cope with the trauma. Though she has a difficult path ahead of her, our staff are confident that with proper care and professional counseling, Lavina can begin to heal from her trauma.
*name changed to protect confidentiality