Three Nepalese women who were victims of human trafficking, but had been housed at the Attakulangara women’s jail in Thiruvananthapuram after being caught with fake documents on the way to the Gulf, were released on Tuesday.
The women were in search of jobs in the Gulf and what landed them in trouble were the documents with fake foreign employment permits that the agent had given them.
This incident raises alarm over human trafficking and only the timely intervention of a group of activists who exposed it made the release of the women possible.
The women were arrested by the Valiathura police in February this year and had been remanded. They had landed at the domestic airport in Thiruvananthapuram and were trying to go to Kuwait through the international airport. Though they were granted bail in April, they were not able to follow the bail conditions and hence were sent on judicial custody.
The women were booked for various offences under the IPC and the Foreigners Act – 465, 468, 471 and 34 of the IPC and section 14 (B) of the Foreigners Act.
A Crime Branch investigation in April conducted by superintendent N Abdul Rasheed found that the women were not guilty. The Judicial First Class Magistrate ordered the release of the women considering a report from the Crime Branch SP. The three were shifted to a home for women in the city after being released from prison.
Maiti, an NGO based in Nepal, got in touch with advocate J Sandhya, a lawyer based out of Thiruvananthapuram through NGO Prajwala’s founder Sunitha Krishnan. Prajwala rescues and rehabilitates women who are victims of trafficking.
The women also submitted a memorandum to state police chief Loknath Behera through the jail superintendent asking him to intervene. This made the Crime Branch investigation in the case possible.
“We hail from poor families and had come to New Delhi in search of jobs. There we met an agent who promised us jobs in the Gulf and took our family details. The agent handed over a few travel documents within a few days and told us that he would take money directly from our prospective employer. Since he had not taken any money, we didn’t suspect his motive at all. We are illiterate and we blindly believed the person and never suspected that the documents handed over to us were fake. We don’t possess any academic qualification to identify the genuineness of the documents. Only when we were detained at the airport did we come to know that we were cheated by the agent,” the memorandum to the DGP read.
Speaking to TNM, advocate J Sandhya said, “I was prima facie convinced that they were not active participants of the crime and that they genuinely trusted the agent. They had also heard that the same agent had earlier sent women from their area to the Gulf. Then the element of human trafficking struck me as the agent didn’t take money in advance from them. The agent was involved in labour exploitation – he would offer to get employees for employers and in turn would take money from them. After the labourers got the job, the agent would also take monthly commission from them.”
“The women have young children back home whom they have left in the care of others. When I first met them in jail, they were in a miserable condition without being able to communicate properly as language was a barrier for them,” Sandhya added.