COVID-19: Roller-coaster ride for trafficking survivors

Coronavirus pandemic proves to be a roller-coaster ride for trafficking survivors

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“We need help urgently. Food and medicines for HIV are the most important things and I do not see this situation easing anytime soon. Officials need to visit our villages and see the situation,” says Mehrunissa, 29, a survivor of sex trafficking who now lives in Andhra Pradesh with her daughter.

Survivors of human trafficking have never been a part of an “inclusive society”. With the lockdown in place, they feel totally left out. Lack of work, food supplies and ration cards make getting food tough and medicines impossible.

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Haseena, 34, another survivor of sex trafficking, says that the pension given by the government to single women should be extended to the sex trafficking community as well.

Bhanupriya, 25, another survivor, feels that the government should assess their living conditions and problems they face, and then come up with solutions, and adopting a top-down policy where the need and relief provided do not match does not help anyone. 

These survivors have been deprived of rehabilitation services, compensations and legal aid. Haseena’s story sums up the ordeal.


“My husband is a labourer and my brother an auto driver. Both have been jobless due to the lockdown. My brother is unwell. His treatment costs us Rs 15,000 a month and we do not have funds. We cannot go to the town to get his medicines because of the lockdown. Interest on loans is also very high.”

Some like Indumathy, 23, a survivor of forced labour from Tamil Nadu, have been getting support from local NGOs like the one she works for as a moderator at Rights Educational And Development Centre. She says she is focusing on her studies and has some savings to carry her through.

But many of the survivors are not so lucky. Some of them have been going without their regular HIV medicines which can be dangerous, suggests the Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking, a forum that has been formed by survivors to fight human trafficking.

Ram Mohan Nimmaraju, secretary, HELP Organisation, AP, says state governments need to prepare a plan for rehabilitation and social entitlements for the survivors. He suggests temporary ration cards and monetary support for them without delay. He adds that action must be taken against house owners demanding that they either pay or vacate the houses immediately. 

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