Jyothi* was fifteen when she married against her parents' wishes. From a different caste and community, her husband was not an acceptable choice. Within a year she was pregnant and, according to Indian custom, her husband left her with her family for the birth of the baby. However, after their daughter was born, Jyothi's parents refused to allow her to return to him.
Eventually, her husband gave up trying to contact her. Jyothi, desperate to find him, began to search many villages and towns around Bangalore. At the same time, she needed money to support her child. She began working on a chicken farm but had to turn over her paycheck to her parents to support their drinking habit.
As trouble increased at home, she continued to look for her husband in her free time. With no leads to his whereabouts, and in a state of despair, Jyothi met a man at Bangalore city’s sprawling bus terminus. This man somehow earned Jyothi’s trust and promised to help her find a better job. Together they boarded a bus and Jyothi fell asleep. With a two-day bus trip, it is possible that Jyothi was drugged. The story fast-forwards when she wakes up in Mumbai. Jyothi had been picked up by a trafficker and was en route to be sold into prostitution.
When the brothel keeper saw Jyothi's skinny body, she forced her to take hormones to make her look older and more appealing to customers. Jyothi was threatened and abused and even segregated from other girls in the brothel. Finally, she had no choice but to accept her situation. Realizing that she was in a place of prostitution shocked and terrified her. Memories of her daughter, her grandparents, and her lost husband crushed her. Her need to escape was urgent.
In a miraculous turn of events, Jyothi saw her chance. She remembers running frantically at night on dark streets. Alone, homeless, and with no way of getting back to her village, she was aware only of overwhelming fear.
Later that night Jyothi met a family who allowed her to stay with them. She told them what had happened, and they encouraged Jyothi to go to the police.
Gathering her courage Jyothi, told the police her story. Marginally literate, lost, scared, and alone, Jyothi was afraid of the police. They asked her many difficult questions. Jyothi's timid answers were followed by more harsh questions and indirect accusations. Although the information she provided lacked important details, Jyothi was able to identify the brothel on google maps. Based on her testimony, the police conducted a raid that resulted in the arrests of the brothel keeper and other suspects.
The Child Welfare committee restored Jyothi to her family and then sent her to a private rehabilitation home in Mysore. In early 2013, Ooty Ruhamah staff conducted a training in the same home. When Jyothi attended the jewelry making workshops, Priyanka and Elizabeth, Freedom Firm staff, got to know Jyothi. She was looking for a job and joined the Ruhamah Ooty Workshop after the training in March. After a few weeks of spending time together in the workshop and over tea and lunch, she confided in us. She was one of the first to share her testimony in front of all the girls and staff at Avalanche camp.
Jyothi made beautiful jewelry and enjoyed Avalanche Camp, but ultimately decided to return home (outside of Bangalore) when her little three-year-old daughter Kaveri fell dangerously ill with Bird Flu. Jyothi is still in the process of balancing her role as a mother, as a member of her family and community (in the village outside Bangalore), and as a wage earner. We at Freedom Firm had the chance to support and encourage her for a short time while she was with us, and often pray for her as she continues to find her way in the world.