Rebuilding a life where nobody owns me

Via Humans of Bombay:

“I was 16 when I was sold to a brothel by my husband. I had run away from home and met him when I was working as a laborer. He got me to Mumbai, and for a year I worked as a house help — and gave birth to my son.
But just after that, one day, he took us to a red light area, and into a room. He asked me to wait there. I waited for an hour, and then went out to find him — but people told me that he’d left. I got worried so I took my son and was about to leave when a man stopped me. He said that my husband had sold me to him for Rs.40000, and I had to work there or repay him — if I wanted to leave.
I was traumatized, for 8 days I didn’t get out of that room, I only fed my son, and could barely eat anything myself. I had no money and no other choice. So on the 9th day, I took my first customer. I worked for 7 months, but even then I’d only saved Rs.25,000.
One of those days my husband had returned, he came into my room when I wasn’t there and stole all the money I had. When I came back and saw nothing, I was devastated.
I continued working and soon, I met a customer who was really kind and nice. He told me he’d take me out of here and marry me. I even gave birth to two daughters with him, but eventually, I realized that he was already married.
I had 3 kids, and the last thing I wanted was to bring them up in the streets where I worked. With whatever I’d saved, I went to boarding schools and hostels, but everyone refused to keep them. That’s when I was put in contact with an NGO, and they helped me raise funds to send my kids to a boarding school.
I was at peace, and I paid all my debt off too — I had nothing left, but I decided to leave my job and start afresh.
For days I looked for work, but no one employed a ‘sex worker’. I begged for food outside temples and drank sewage water to get by. But just then, the NGO who helped my kids — got in touch with me and gave me a job. I had to sell condoms to sex workers and make them aware of STD’s. Soon they even promoted me to work at their office!
It’s been over 15 years, and today I’ve bought my own house, got my kids educated and married — and I live a stable life. I still work with the NGO and help as many women as I can.
I’ve lived some of the darkest days, that give me nightmares until today. I’ve lived not knowing if I’ll survive through the night. I’ve been stripped of my dignity and abused, time and again. But despite all of that, today. I’m standing strong and facing the world. I’ve left my past behind, and I’m rebuilding the life that was snatched away from me. A life where nobody owns me… and I’m free.”

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