by Alex Woods
Free the Slaves India Program Manager
One of the toughest challenges in fighting modern slavery is holding traffickers accountable for their crimes. But after a three-year struggle, lawyers with the Free the Slaves front-line partner group Tatvasi Samaj Nyas (TSN) have ensured that four traffickers will go to jail and their victim will receive restitution.
The case involves a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped and taken to the town of Sonipat in northern India. She was forced into slavery as a domestic servant. The girl was unable to escape and was sexually assaulted by the slave holder.
When she was kidnapped, the girl's father approached local police, but they did not pay attention to him. That's when he reached out to TSN attorneys, who were able to set the wheels of justice in motion. The girl was rescued by police and the traffickers were eventually arrested and held without bail.
It has taken more than three years for the trial to conclude, but four assailants were convicted on charges of kidnapping, rape and human trafficking. Last week, they were sentenced to prison sentences ranging from 7 to 10 years and fines totaling $4,300. The victim will receive 60 percent of the fines. TSN lawyers closely monitored the proceedings and provided legal support to the victim every step of the way.
"The case is significant," says TSN. "If we get a conviction, awareness with respect to anti-trafficking issues becomes easier in the locality. We may say that it gives a message to society that trafficking should not be done and one should not be involved in such heinous crimes."
The victim was aided in her recovery at the Punarnawa Ashram, supported by Free the Slaves. She received counseling and medical treatment, along with catch-up school classes and training in handicrafts. She is now safe.
Ultimately, this case is a warning to traffickers, encouragement for victims to step forward, and a morale builder for those who work on the front-lines to bring slavery to an end, says TSN. "It gives us great morale and courage, not only to the legal team but to the entire team."
Learn more about Free the Slaves work in India, see slavery survivors speak in their own words, and see an actual rescue caught on videotape on our India webpage.