There are an estimated almost 8 million people living in modern slavery in India (GSI 2018). India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people, with at least 270 million people still living on less than US$1.90 per day. Existing research suggests that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, with forced labour, including debt bondage, constituting India’s largest trafficking problem. Situations of debt bondage are often aggravated by the need to raise emergency funds or take on loans for health crises. Sometimes entire families are forced to work in brick kilns, rice mills, embroidery factories and agriculture.
Gowri and her husband wanted to support their children and pay for their medical bills, so they took out a loan from a factory owner, agreeing to work in his brick kiln and wood-cutting facility to pay off the debt. This turned out to be a trick, and the owner continually increased the loan, violently forcing the family to continue working long hours for him. Even when Gowri paid of her debt and tried to leave to find a safer workplace, her employer attacked her. This abuse continued for nearly 10 years, until IJM was able to send rescue. Today, the slave owner is standing trial, and the family is safe.
I am not so worried about my own future but my children are my sole concern. A mother who neglects her children, is no mother at all.
We thought it was a normal job. To us it didn’t look like bonded labour. Many women were working for him. They told me that he was a very bad man. I didn’t believe them then. Even if you want to extract labour from someone, be reasonable about it. Pay reasonable wages the them. Don’t abuse or threaten them.
There was no one to protect us. I used to wonder if someone would rescue us from him. I prayed a lot.
My children rushed to me crying. They said, “He had hit us because you didn’t work for them”. In my anger, I confronted him. “Why are you beating my children?” He then came after me and hit me with a log. I felt very pained. [crying]
When he hit me, the courage came to fight back. If we are right, there is nothing wrong in fighting back. Justice is on our side.
When I called IJM over the phone they came to meet us. They reassured me. “Don’t worry, Gowri. We will definitely help you”. Had IJM not come, I would not have been a mother to my children. I am very happy. I’m even happier that my children are studying. They are learning. They are happy. I want them to become doctors and teachers. I want them to work in a good environment.
In freedom, I am happy and at peace. I’m able to interact freely with others and I am able to enjoy that with my children. I feel proud and happy as a mother.
Narrative provided by IJM
Original narrative can be found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZT-CqkPnzw