Even though the mom and daughter are safe and back home, they are still afraid. “We still live with anxiety and trauma,” the mother said.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 23, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of human trafficking that may be disturbing to readers.
Marium, a 16-year-old girl from Bangladesh, received a job offer from a man who was the family’s acquaintance, on January 15, 2021. The job that was offered to the teen was in a district near the border with India, according to Vice.
“I thought the job would be good for me. So, when he came and said, ‘Let’s go,’ I packed up and went with him,” Marium said. So, she set out for the job, but along the way, she was handed over to two other men. By the time she reached the border, she knew something wasn't right.
“It was the middle of the night, and I started crying,” she said. “But they pushed me into a boat.” The distraught girl convinced a man—a total stranger on the boat— to lend her his phone, which she used to call her mom. “I’m being taken to India! Save me!” Marium told her mom, 34-year-old Asiya, along with the names of her captors, before they snatched the phone from her.
Woman tricks traffickers in daring bid to rescue daughter https://t.co/MM9KRiYpIv— DhakaTribune (@DhakaTribune) August 17, 2021
Within days of the frantic call, Marium had ended up in a brothel on the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Back home in Dhaka, a worried Asiya headed to the police station to file a missing person complaint. Though she was assured an investigation into the matter would take place, 40 days passed without any word of her daughter.
Desperate to know if her daughter was doing okay, Asiya contacted one of the men whom her daughter had named as one of the traffickers. Asiya contacted him for a job, and he reiterated by telling her that he had one in India. “This is exactly what I wanted,” she said.
The determined mom then took out all her savings—Taka 60,000 ($703)—and headed for the border. “I hid the money under a wig and covered my head with a scarf,” she said. In a few days, she found herself at a brothel in New Delhi, India. “But my daughter wasn’t there,” she said. “I came to know that all girls were not taken to the same place.”
She was determined to find her daughter, so she spent four months—from February to June—waiting. One day, her husband called and said Marium contacted him through a client’s cellphone. Marium gave her location; it was about 1,000 kilometers (800 miles) away from New Delhi.
In the middle of the night, Asiya managed to escape the brothel. Finally, with the help of Marium’s client and some locals, the mother and daughter finally reunited in New Delhi. “On the night of June 18, I got my daughter back,” said Asiya. “The brothel owner confessed that he bought my daughter for $3,404 from Bangladesh.”
On June 22, the two women were caught trying to cross the border into Bangladesh. They were immediately detained and questioned by the Indian border officials, but the pair’s story stunned them, and then later, everyone in Bangladesh. After they heard the story, it led to the speedy arrests of the traffickers—Mohammad Kalu, 40, Mohammad Shohag, 32, and Billal Hossain, 41. Later, they found out that the trio was running a larger trafficking ring with 25 other perpetrators. Each victim was sold for $1,173 to $1,760.
At least 20,000 Bangladeshi women and children are trafficked across the mostly-porous and unfenced border with India every year. Most of them never make it back. According to a UN Report, human trafficking is the world’s second-most lucrative crime. It’s a $200-billion illegal industry, and a quarter of that money is from South Asia.
In the meantime, Asiya and Marium fear they might be targeted by other members of the trafficking network they exposed. But Asiya said her ordeal was worth it because she’s seen other young girls from her slum disappearing the way her daughter did. “We still live with anxiety and trauma,” she said.
Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | Favor_of_God