I was sitting in my room thinking how lucky I was to be here in London. It seemed like just the other day when my world had turned upside down. I left my home in Kenya when a woman whom I thought was my friend told me about a job at Pathfinder International, a non-profit organization in Delhi, India. I was excited for the opportunity, so I headed there. I was met at the airport by a woman named Gloria who took me to a house which I was shocked to find out was a brothel.
That night, I was taken to a club and one of the men asked me, “How much?” I had no idea what he meant so I asked the woman who was there with me and she explained that he was asking how much it would cost to have sex with me. That’s when I realized what I had gotten myself into.
Gloria told me that I owed her money for all the transportation costs, the passport and the visa to India. I could only get the money by sleeping with men because she had seized my passport making it hard for me to return to Kenya. I would have to pay 270,000 her rupees. The man had offered to sleep with me for 4,000 rupees. I would have to sleep with a lot of men in order to pay the balance of what I owed her. I felt scared, trapped and desperate. I didn’t want to end up violated or dead like some women when they failed to comply with the women who claimed to have taken care of their transportation costs to India like Gloria did.
I felt I had no choice but to sleep with men daily until my debt was paid. I had gone to India for an honest job and had ended up as a sex worker. I was forced to dress up and go to local pick-up bars known as ‘kitchens’ to solicit the men. It was a nightmare. My nightmare ended when I managed to run away from the brothel and I found a church. I went inside and sat in the pew. It felt so safe and peaceful in there. I wished I could have stay there forever. That’s where the priest found me. He approached me and asked me questions. He took me to a shelter where I spent the night. The next day I went to the Kenyan embassy and told them my story. I took refuge there until I was taken safely back to Kenya.
My mother was surprised to see and was appalled when I told her what happened to me. “I thank God that you were able to escape and come back home.”
The so called friend who deceived me into going to India was arrested for trafficking three girls to India for prostitution. She was arrested by officials of National Agency for the Prohibition and Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) who were in collaboration with New Delhi city police and the three girls were rescued. I hope they arrest Gloria soon. I still can’t believe that women could do that to other women and to girls. I’ve heard of women forcing their relatives into prostitution. I have warned as many of my friends and relatives to be careful when considering jobs abroad. I have shared my ordeal with many of them. And I’m relieved to hear the Kenyan government is sounding the alarm to all Kenyans that human trafficking is very real and that citizens are vulnerable.
After my ordeal, I was hesitant to leave Kenya again but I was online and saw an article about the UK’s New Visa programme for Talented Graduates. I didn’t need a job offer or sponsorship to qualify for the visa. I just needed to be a graduate who had completed a degree from a qualifying university outside the UK within the past five years. I would be allowed to work and stay in the UK for two-three years depending on my degree level. After arriving in the UK, as a visa holder, I could apply for jobs in any industry or I can go to the UK and set up as self-employed or volunteer.
I was excited so I didn’t waste any time applying for the visa and I got it because I met all the requirements. My mother was thrilled for me. “At least you are not being deceived this time,” she said.
I left Kenya last year and am now here in London. I was staying with a cousin until I was able to get a job and my own flat. Another reason I like living here is my Indian neighbor, Savitri. She’s in her 50s and she’s always inviting me to have delicious home cooked meals. I love Indian food.
Savitri is the only person outside of Kenya whom I shared my story with and after expressing her sorrow and indignation for all that I had gone through, she told me about a 19-year-old woman from Jharkhand who was taken to Delhi and allegedly sold by a man from her village who promised her a job at a missionary society. After being subjected to unspeakable sexual abuse by men to whom she was sold, she got away and walked walked over 800 km to reach home. “There’s so much evil in this world,” Savitri concluded, shaking her head, her eyes filled with sadness.
My thoughts are interrupted by the doorbell. I get up from the bed and go to see who it is. It’s a young Indian man I’ve never seen before. I open the door. He’s tall and very handsome. “Yes?”
“Hello. Are you Rehema?”
“I’m Trishan, Savitri’s nephew.”
“Oh. It’s nice to meet you, Trishan. She has told me so much about you.”
“She asked me to invite you to join us for dinner, if you’re free.”
“Yes, I’m free. Come in. I’ll just go and change. I won’t be long.”
I hurry to my room and quickly change into a tee shirt and jeans. I check my hair to make sure it looks presentable and then, I make my way to the foyer where he is waiting for me. His eyes travel over me. “My aunt mentioned that you’re from Kenya. Which part are you from?”
“Mombasa. It’s a coastal city in southeastern Kenya along the Indian Ocean and the second largest city after Nairobi.”
“I’ve been to Nairobi.”
“How did you find it?”
“I found it full of vitality with excellent food and lots of fun things to do. The highlights for me were going on the safari and visiting the elephant orphanage operated by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.”
“I’ve never been to Nairobi although I thought of attending university there but then, I decided to study abroad because over-flowing classes, strained facilities, high fees and shortages of lecturers.”
“Which university did you end up going to?”
“The University of California in Berkeley and I’m glad I did because no African universities are included in the list of eligible institutions for UK’s new work visa rule. I think it’s wrong for them to exclude graduates from African universities and I hope that changes.”
“Indian universities are missing from the list too but there are two universities from Mainland China and two from Hong Kong. So basically, Indian graduates from Indian universities will not be eligible for this visa.”
“I think that’s unfair. There are talented, bright graduates in Africa and South Asia and to deny them this opportunity because they went to universities in their countries is unfair.”
“Well, hopefully, the criticism the UK is getting will make a difference.”
“Hopefully. Have you been living in London long?”
“Yes. I came here to study at Cambridge and was living with Aunt Savitri until I found a job after graduating.”
“What did you study?”
“Engineering. I’m working at an Engineering Consulting firm. What did you study when you were at Berkeley?”
“Public Health. I’m working as Care Assistant in a nursing home.”
“What do you do?”
“I assist residents with washing, personal hygiene, dressing and meals. I particularly like offering emotional support to a confused or distressed resident. I love what I do and I’m very thankful for that.”
He smiled. “That’s good. I think we’d better head over to my aunt’s flat. She’s probably wondering what’s keeping us.”
“You’re right. Let’s go.”
The above story is fiction but human trafficking cases are real. Women from African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Rwanda are trafficked and forced into sex work to satisfy the demands of African men living in Delhi, India. lured into sex trafficking with promises of jobs. The perpetrators are people from their villages and in some cases relatives, friends and boyfriends. Although it is illegal, human trafficking is prevalent in India.
Imagine, a Delhi mother selling her 15 year old daughter to a trafficker and had sold her one year old son in the previous month. The girl’s mother the girl’s mother asked her to accompany her to her sister’s place in Badarpur but she took her to a hotel in Nizamuddin instead, telling her that she had to go somewhere and that a man would take her home. The man didn’t take the girl home, instead, he took her to his house. Other girls who were there asked her to wear a wedding dress and to “get ready” That was when the girl found out that her mother had sold her. She managed to escape and was taken to the police after going to her neighbors for help. Apparently her mother was in debt and sold her to pay it off.
Human/sex trafficking is an evil practice and it needs to be eradicated. Governments need to protect women, girls and children and those who responsible for trafficking them need to be arrested and put away for life.
Sources: BBC ; Kenyan News; ICIR; Desiblitz; Action Aid India; Nation Kenya Edition; India Today; Sahara Reporters; News 18; Wikipedia; Rough Guides; CNBC; College Factual; CNN; Indian Express; University World News; Indeed; Berkeley Academic Guide; Learn4 Good; NDTV