Years after ordeal, woman waits for job promised to her by Chief Minister’s office

Her testimony helped the police capture Sauda Beevi, allegedly the kingpin of a prostitution racket based in Sharjah.

Years after her ordeal, the woman from Pathanamthitta, who first told the world about trafficking of women from Kerala to the Gulf, is yet to resume a normal life. She is still waiting for a job promised to her by the Chief Minister’s office.

The woman said she had visited the Chief Minister’s office several times over the last couple of years.

“They keep telling me that I will be given a job. But they’re only making excuses. There are many other victims of the racket now living in Kerala. But I’m the only one who spoke out. I’m paying the price for that every day,” she said.

The 35-year-old divorcee was promised a job at a supermarket in Sharjah by Sauda Beevi, then her neighbour. She was flown out from Thiruvananthapuram airport in June 2007 by Sauda’s agents. “When I got there, Sauda told me I would have to ‘cooperate’ with men coming there. I refused. Sauda Beevi and her associate Ahmed abused and tortured me. Many men forced themselves upon me.”

Her shot at freedom came when a customer who hailed from Thiruvananthapuram agreed to inform her brother-in-law about the trap she had fallen into.

Her family contacted a Malayali organisation in Sharjah, which managed to get her out of the clutches of Sauda.

She was not the first victim of Malayali prostitution rackets. But unlike other victims, she decided she would speak out against the abuse.

A police case was registered soon after she returned in August 2007. Agents of Sauda began threatening her and her brother-in-law, trying to force them into withdrawing the case.

The same agents, she believes, were also responsible for the police investigation turning up nothing for about three years. That’s when she took her battle to the High Court. The Court rapped the police for their inaction and ordered a quick investigation. Finally, in 2011, the police arrested Sauda, her accomplice Ahmed and her daughter Shemia.

But the battle is far from over for this woman. Two police officers in mufti are her constant companions for her protection. “If they weren’t here, I would have committed suicide. How long can I live like this?” she said. Society has shunned her due to the stigma of her being a ‘sex racket victim. She has no job and has to depend on her family for survival. “I’m not educated and I’m ready to do even a sweeper’s job. No private company will employ someone like me. The government is my only hope,” she said.

After the Sharjah sex racket came into the public eye, other rackets tricking Malayali women into prostitution in the Gulf have been unearthed.

Biggest among them is that run by Lissy Sojan. It was a victim from Kattappana who broke the silence and named her abusers in front of the police. The price the 29-year-old paid for her determination was abandonment. She said her mother threw her out of her house and she has no job now to support her children.

“The government talks about protecting victims of rape and abuse. But I have only suffered because I decided to take on powerful people like Lissy,” she said.

“No one has offered me a job or help of any kind. How am I supposed to live?” she asked.

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