By Remy Tumin Dec. 4, 2017
The lush floodplains of Dooars, India, appear to go on forever. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the green is so vibrant it is all consuming.
But beyond the riverbeds, in an area once known for its bustling tea gardens, Dooars’s dirt roads can be perilous. They are barely proper roads, and the commute to school by foot is long and dangerous, making girls easy targets for attackers and traffickers.
“They’re like fishermen waiting for the bait,” said Smita Sharma, a photojournalist documenting survivors and their families.
The area has become a hub for domestic servitude trafficking. Girls as young as 10 are put in households through traffickers posing as placement agencies. They are almost always taken by someone they know — a relative, a neighbor, an acquaintance — and sold for $300 to $1,000. Ms. Sharma had already been working over the last three years on documenting survivors of sexual violence in India. But she kept coming across women who had been trafficked and sold into domestic servitude, an industry she says gets little attention in comparison.
“These girls are not in demand in the sex industry because they are too dark and skinny. That is why they are sold as domestic slaves,” Ms. Sharma said. “If they were more fleshy or voluptuous, they would be in high demand in the sex trade.”
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