Naseeb: Trafficked. A reportage by Sonal Kantaria

Photos by Sonal Kantaria


Sonal Kantaria is based in London, UK. She holds a Masters in Photojournalism from the University of Westminster, London. The works of Sonal Kantaria casts a social documentarist’s eye on marginalised communities that traces the faultlines in modern society. Her thoughtful and compassionate approach teases out the larger forces and salient issues engulfing her protagonists to emerge into the light.

Her recent project Naseeb: Trafficked incorporates stills and moving footage and takes an intimate look into the dramatic stories of young Indian females who have been kidnapped or sold off into prostitution, and subsequently rescued from the brothels. Her sensitive portrayals and in-depth investigation into the bowels of Mumbai and Calcutta brings into sharp focus the gender, economic and class disenfranchisement that have coerced millions of Indian women into the flesh trade.

Her work was exhibited in London as part of a collective exhibition in September 2010.


Against the backdrop of an emerging India as a player in global markets, 100 million girls and women are missing as a result of sex-based trafficking. Girls as young as 10 years old, frequently from the poorest backgrounds are being kidnapped and sold off to brothels, sometimes by their own families. This project explores the stories of a number of girls and young women who have been rescued from the brothels of Mumbai and Pune to be reintegrated into society and if appropriate to return home. In doing so it touches on the social, economic and cultural issues that affect contemporary India.


Arati is 17 years old, separated and from Bangladesh. She was offered a job in India for RS 20,000 by an unknown lady. She was forced to cross Sunderbans by foot and ended up being raped by border police as well as her trafficker before being sold to a brothel in Pune. She has a 2-year-old child that she was forced to give up for adoption. Arati does not want to return home. She wants to be independent and remain in India.


Asha was trafficked from Madhya Pradesh. She was then rescued but went back into prostitution to provide for her family. Her father left the family when she was young and she took responsibility of looking after her mother and brother. Asha has obtained 12th grade pass at college and is well-educated. When she leaves next year she will start a job in computing and has been offered a flat in Mumbai. Her dream is to go back to her village proud of having made a success of her life.


Deepa is 17 years old, divorced and from Kolkata. She is the eldest girl in her family. She was duped into prostitution by a couple, on her way to hospital, with the promise of work in Mumbai. Deepa worked as prostitute for one year at Kamathipura Lane 13.


Kajal is 13 years old and from a poor family. Her step father ran away with the family savings. Her aunt promised her a job in a soap factory for RS 5,000 a month and then sold her to a brothel in Turbhe, Mumbai.


Neelam is 17 years old. She is from Bangladesh and has eight siblings. Due to the poverty in her family she was unable to study. Her father died when she was young. She worked in Dhaka as a prostitute for one year and was then trafficked by one woman and two men across the border to Pune. Neelam was forced into prostitution in Pune. When she turns 18 she will look for a job related to English in Mumbai.


Priti is from Ahemdabad. She was trafficked to work in a dance bar in Mumbai. Priti is deeply religious and follows scriptures everyday. She looks forward to returning home to her mother and fiancé and marrying in August 2010. Priti was released on 1 July 2010.


Rabia is 14 years old and from Bangladesh. Her aunt offered to take she and her sister sightseeing in Mumbai. After a few days Rabia’s sister was taken home and Rabia was told that she would stay with her aunt. Her aunt sold her to a brothel. She managed to escape.


Radha is 16 years old and from Banares. She was abandoned by her uncle at a train station. Radha’s parents died when she was younger. She self harms, often cutting her arms and also picking at the walls. Currently she is being given extra attention and counselling to overcome these habits.


Shravani is the youngest of seven children and the only girl in a well-off family. She was kidnapped on a school trip and subsequently raped by border police on the trafficking journey to Pune. In Pune she was sold to a brothel in Budwepeth. Shravani tried to commit suicide. She felt there was no point in living because she was damaged. She also feels she will not be accepted if she goes back to her family. She likes mehndi, dancing and music and is learning English.


Sonal is 16 years old and Gujarati. She lost her father on the train to Rajkot and was later taken in by an unknown lady who transported her to Mumbai. She does not remember much but her tattoos act as a memory and mark ownership. She was not to get lost again. When she turns 18 she wants to become a chef in Mumbai.

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