Sonya was trafficked from Ukraine into sex slavery in Britain in 2002, and enslaved for over two years. She was freed in 2004 by police and narrated her story the same year. Sonya’s name has been changed to protect her identity. The majority of those trafficked to the UK have been identified victims of sexual exploitation, followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation.
There are millions of enslaved domestics in India, and a further 264,000 child domestics in Pakistan. Children are often sent away from their villages to work in order to clear a family debt. These loans have immensely high rates of interest, and in many cases no remuneration is given at all. The debt is often passed onto a younger sibling or onto the domestic’s own children. The children work 15 or more hours a day, seven days a week, for little or no pay under abusive conditions, generally have little or no freedom of movement, are denied schooling, and are often sexually exploited. Consequently, domestic work is often a precursor to commercial sex work. Many domestics in India—some as young as seven or eight—are on duty around the clock, sleep on the kitchen floor, eat leftovers, and have no holidays or rest breaks. Kavita’s psychological turning-point from slavery to freedom came some months after her escape from domestic slavery. As she explains, there was no turning-point upon her initial arrival at a shelter: “I was very scared. I refused to speak for the first two days. I just cried and cried.” It was only when she reversed the most traumatic aspect of her experience in slavery that Kavita reached a turning-point. Trafficked with her younger sister into domestic servitude within India in 2002, at the age of 12, Kavita was forced to watch her sister “beaten up, tortured, made to work every day.” She recalls “sitting in a corner, tied, a witness to the beating of my younger sister…unable to protect her…Each time I think about that, I just stagnate.” But when she was encouraged her to “help out the tiny ones” at the shelter, Kavita was able to counter this trauma. She began to gain confidence to “start my life afresh.”