By Anuradha Nagaraj
CHENNAI, India, Sept 27 – An 11-year-old girl who escaped from a middle class home where she was forced to work as a domestic help in southern India told investigators on Monday that she had been pulled out of school and sold for $15 by her family.
After she escaped from a house in Tambaram near the port city of Chennai on Sunday morning, the girl told child welfare committee officials that she was made to work in two homes round the clock, given very little to eat and was not paid or allowed to continue her schooling.
“She scaled the wall at around four in the morning on Sunday and asked an auto-rickshaw driver for help,” said Zaheeruddin Mohamed, member of the local child welfare committee.
“She is now in a government children’s home. A preliminary investigation indicates she was exploited, underfed and not allowed to leave.”
Crime data released by the Indian government in August showed more than 40 percent of human trafficking cases in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves.
The figures showed a 25 percent increase in cases of human trafficking in India in 2015, with 43 percent of the 9,127 victims below the age of 18.
The crimes included inducing a young girl with the intent of sexual intercourse, buying or selling a girl for prostitution, and keeping a child as a slave.
In her statement to the committee, the 11-year-old said she was living with her grandparents in their village in Tamil Nadu state’s Thiruvarur, nearly 300 km (190 miles) from where she was brought to work, and studying in grade seven. Her parents had abandoned her.
“The girl has told us that she was sold to an acquaintance of her mother, who made her work as a maid in his house and in his in-laws home,” Mohamed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The man who “bought” the girl runs a travel agency and registered the child as missing after she escaped.
The committee said they would file an official complaint against him with the police and he would be charged with trafficking based on the girl’s statement.
“The girl shudders at the mention of her trafficker and when she was brought to us, she was very, very frightened,” said Mohamed.
According to her recorded statement, she was sold for just 1,000 rupees ($15).