75 Bangladeshi girls, rescued from brothels, head back home

The Bangladesh High Commission, which had last year imposed a cruel condition that the children born in India to these sex workers couldn’t be repatriated, has now agreed to let the women bring their sons and daughters along

Every face in the compartment of the Kolkata-bound train on June 30 had a broad smile. After all, these women were finally going home leaving behind the horrors they had experienced. These were the Bangladeshi women who had been sold into brothels in Mumbai, rescued by an NGO, and finally allowed back into their home countries by the Bangladesh High Commission.

The country’s High Commission had, last year, imposed a cruel rider for these women’s repatriation: should you have borne any child during your stay in India, you will have to leave him/her behind. The Bangladeshi authorities finally relented and allowed the women to enter the country, child in tow.

mid-day has been reporting on the plight of these women, most of whom were lured to India with the promise of better employment prospects and were later forced into prostitution in the various brothels in Mumbai as well as Pune. After being sexually exploited and going through hell, Rescue Foundation, an NGO, rescued them and sheltered them in homes in Mumbai and Pune. However, the women’s ordeal was to continue.

Though the repatriation had started, though at great delay, beginning with the daughter of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cook (‘After Bangladesh PM’s cook’s daughter, 60 flesh trade victims head home’, March 28, 2012), the Bangladesh High Commission imposed a condition on the women that they could be allowed back only if they left behind children they may have given birth to, during their stay in India.

The authorities’ logic was that since the child had an Indian father, he/she would have to stay in India (‘The children caught in no man’s land, October 13, 2014). The women refused to part with their children; no way would they return without them. Two months ago, the Bangladesh High Commission finally agreed to take the women back along with their children.

mid-day spoke to one of the women, a 20-year-old with a baby girl less than two years old. “Six months ago, they told me I had to leave my child in India if I wanted to go home. I couldn’t do that.”

The young girl had fought with her in-laws and landed in Mumbai after being promised a good job; she eventually ended up in a brothel and was rescued from Budhwarpeth in Pune more than two years ago. Her family is happy to have her back now.

“My husband and in-laws are very happy I am coming back. I can’t wait to see them. None of us have slept due to excitement,” she said. Another 24-year-old who was also cheated by an acquaintance into becoming a prostitute wanted assurances that she wouldn’t have to go through the same abuse.

Triveni Acharya, the president of Rescue Foundation, told her no such thing would happen. She will go back to her mother and siblings, taking her child along. Another 17-year-old, who had been rescued when she was 14, looked forward to rejoining school and completing her studies.

Acharya, the NGO official, said, “Two months ago, the Bangladesh authorities informed us they were ready to take the girls back. We started the paperwork and they are now going home. They will go to Kolkata and reach the Bangladesh border from there, and be handed over to the authorities. We have contacted the family of each girl and all responded positively.”

Acharya also said the girls, during their stay in the rescue homes, had learnt stitching and jewellery-making and that these skills could help them get jobs in Bangladesh. At around 8.30 pm, Acharya and her colleagues wished the girls good luck, and told them never to return to the country.

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