In late October of this year, a police officer found three girls, aged 13, 14 and 15, huddled together on a bench in the middle of a Bangalore railway station. The girls had clearly undergone some sort of trauma and were refusing to speak. Though they were frightened they went with the officer to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). When the CWC failed to get the girls to open up, they called Oasis and asked if we could help.
It took two weeks of counseling before the girls would tell us their story.
Nearly three and a half years ago the three girls were living with their families in Ballari, a city about 300 km away from Bangalore. A man came offering to buy girls for jobs in the city as cooks, nannies and housecleaners. The three girls were sold by their parents to a wealthy family for 20,000 rupees.
Once at the house, they were forced to work 12 hours a day and given very little food and water. They were forced to convert from Hinduism to Islam and learn Arabic. Their names were changed to traditional Muslim names. Both the father and the son-in-law sexually and physically abused the girls whenever they caught them alone. This nightmare went on for three years before they first tried to escape.
They ran away from the home and went to the CWC, who returned them to their parents but failed to press charges against their employers. After the dust settled, the employer returned to the impoverished family and bought the girls again, this time for 15,000 rupees less. Their nightmare started over and the girls were forced to endure the same conditions they thought they were free from.
Four months later, they escaped again, this time ending up with Oasis.
The father and son-in-law have been arrested and booked under sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act, section 354 (a) of the Indian Penal Code (sexual assault) and section 11 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The investigation is ongoing and they are currently awaiting trial.
The girls will not be returned to their parents until the CWC feels it is safe to do so. For now, they will stay at a girl’s home where they will receive food, shelter, counseling and vocational training. Oasis will continue to build relationships with the girls and will oversee their recovery.
After almost three and a half years, they are finally free.