A beacon of hope in Bangladesh: Darsha’s story

January 31, 2020

Teenager Darsha* was on her way to a study session for her upcoming school exams when she was kidnapped en-route and trafficked to Mumbai, India.

Darsha had been living with her parents in a rented house in a small village in Bangladesh – but on Christmas Day 2013 her family’s lives were turned upside down when she did not return home from class.

The man who kidnapped Darsha was a relative of the family’s landlord and had previously given her a marriage proposal that she had turned down.

Once in India Darsha was drugged and forced to marry another man who abused her mentally, physically and sexually for a month before sending her to work in a brothel. Upon discovering that she was pregnant, Darsha tried to use her pregnancy as an excuse to stop working in the brothel, but she was still forced to have sex with 4-5 clients on a regular basis.

One day Darsha’s pimp gave her a mobile phone and sent her back to her husband, thinking that her spirit had been broken enough by the sexual exploitation that she would continue to work for the brothel. However, Darsha used the phone to call her mother in Bangladesh asking for help and to contact the police.

In March 2014, Darsha was rescued from her nightmare by Mumbai Police and taken to a shelter home in Pune, India. After living in the shelter home for a year and a half, Darsha, along with her 9-month-old daughter, was repatriated home to Bangladesh. Darsha’s parents filed a case against her trafficker with the local police under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act.

Justice and Care supported Darsha and her parents through every stage of the case and our team also helped the Investigation Officer to collect all the case-related evidence from India.

As often happens to survivors of trafficking, re-integrating into their old lives can be extremely challenging. Unfortunately, Darsha found this to be her reality, as back home she faced the social stigma of her sexual exploitation, as well as the struggle of her parents’ financial hardship. Sadly, after only three months of being home in Bangladesh, Darsha was taken back to Mumbai by one of her relatives.

At the end of 2017, Darsha returned home again, this time ready to rebuild her life for the sake of her daughter’s future. Our team provided Darsha with psychosocial counselling and life-skills development so that she could process her trauma and look after her mental health going forward. We also helped support her in setting up her own tailoring and clothing business from her parents’ house.

In the meantime, the case against her accused trafficker was brought to court where Darsha courageously testified against the man who had brutally exploited her. Our Bangladesh Director also testified against the trafficker.

Thanks to the hard work and bravery of everyone involved, our team secured our first trafficking conviction in Bangladesh, and the man was convicted of trafficking offences, given a life-sentence and heavy fine.

This verdict is a breakthrough for our Justice and Care team but also for the whole anti-slavery sector in Bangladesh, a country that has a human trafficking conviction rate of just 0.4%. There are a number of reasons for this low rate – including a lack of coordination between agencies, poor victim care and a lack of relevant specialist knowledge amongst prosecutors and the judiciary.

The success of this case is a landmark not only because we secured justice for Darsha and her family, but also because it is a beacon of hope for other survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery in Bangladesh. The conviction sends a clear message to criminal networks who are exploiting and trafficking people – that they will be stopped and brought to justice!

Now 23 years old, Darsha dreams of a bright future for herself and her daughter, as she continues to grow her tailoring business and feels empowered to make decisions for her family.

*Name changed to protect identity.