International Justice Mission [IJM] works around the world to bolster rule of law, fight corruption and help human trafficking victims. In India, human trafficking – both sex trafficking and labor trafficking – is rampant. IJM announced that government officials (who had been trained by and working with IJM) were able to free 333 people from labor trafficking at a brick factory last week.
They [the trafficking victims] lived in tiny, thatched-roof huts. Each couple was responsible to make 2,000 bricks a week; children as young as 12 worked alongside their parents to help meet this enormous quota.
“I had to witness my own daughter work. I was helpless because I was injured,” Lokimi told the IJM team. The young mother shared how her leg had been crushed when a pile of bricks toppled onto her. After ten days of refusing any kind of medical treatment, someone came to the factory to apply a bandage. Lokimi had to get back to work the next day.
IJM reports that these people were victims of “debt bondage:”
Forced labor or debt bondage is a common form of modern-day slavery, and this case illustrates how it works. A family will take an advance payment intending to repay that money through their wages earned over time. But the owner tacks on exorbitant interest, pays the workers far below a fair wage and won’t let them leave to work elsewhere. The workers—typically very poor, from a lower caste, and illiterate—are trapped. They have become enslaved to the owner.
In this case, as in many trafficking cases, the people enslaved were far from home, did not speak the local language, and even if they could escape, had no financial means to care for themselves or to get home.