Several African women from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, come to Delhi in search of new opportunities. But not all of them succeed in achieving their goal of a better life. Several women are forced into sexual exploitation to satisfy African men living in New Delhi.
The Logical Indian spoke to Nyasha Kadandara a Zimbabwean-born visual storyteller who worked with the BBC News Africa and directed 'Imported for my Body' documentary for which she approached Grace.
Grace, a Kenyan girl who was trafficked to New Delhi, went undercover for the BBC to expose the dark world of the illegal sex network that spreads from India to Africa.
The investigation aimed to reveal the faces behind this sex trade network. Nyasha had earlier produced the Africa eye series 'Sex and the Sugar Daddy', and Grace was one of the women featured.
"I have known Grace since 2017, I contacted her to inform her about the series, and that is when she told me that she isn't in Kenya anymore. She has been trafficked to India," Nyasha said.
As the earlier Africa Eye series aired, Grace received messages in a Whatsapp group asking her if she would like to travel to India and earn as much as ₹10,000 in one day. The recruiters told her that they were looking for dancers and hostesses for tourists.
The lure of good money got Grace hooked, and she agreed to move to India. Grace was then connected to a Kenyan woman, who would later be her 'madam', her warden.
'Madam' helped Grace to get her documents in order. She then received her visa and ticket to India on mail. On reaching New Delhi, Grace met Goldie, a well known 'madam' from the local sex industry. Goldie then took her to Govindpuri in South Delhi.
Not hearing from for weeks, she called Grace. "I started asking her questions, to which she told me that she owed a debt of ₹2,70,700 and that her passport has been taken away. She told me that now she was forced to solicit to pay back the people who trafficked her" told Nyasha.
Grace informed Nyasha that there were scores of other African women, who shared her fate, at the place where she was being stationed. "I knew I had to go to India and investigate how women like Grace were being tricked into getting trapped in this business," said Nyasha.
Nyasha managed to set up a meeting with Grace in Delhi. When Grace left for India, she expected she would be working with tourists. But instead, she was forced to solicit. She wanted to tell her story as a warning to others. During this meeting, the plan to bust the racket was formulated. Grace was ready to expose the underworld of her captors, where women are reduced to being merchandise.
Nyasha set out to find out if the debt that Grace owed was accounted for. In the course of her research, she found out that, on an average, a ticket to India from Kenya is $500 (US). Visa would require $80 and another $40 for the passport.
This revealed that even with the living cost, Goldie's profit was around $3000. In six months, Goldie had trafficked five women making almost $18,000 in profit.
Pain Breaks Patience
Grace was first taken to the Goldie's Brothel in Govindpuri. Men would frequently visit the brothel. If one of them had a client, the other would sleep in the sitting room outside.
She recalled one time when she came back home with ₹10,000. She was in excruciating pain. She informed Goldie she needed rest. She was forced to go out again immediately. "You have to go work" was the only answer she received. The incident pushed Grace to tell her story.
"At first, when we found out what had happened to Grace, we only wanted to get her out. We hadn't thought of a film, to begin with. But when she had left Kenya, she had told her family that she would change their lives for the better, which is why she wanted to stay and see it till the end" said Nyasha.
"Being forced into prostitution was something she had never dreamt of, she decided she wanted to stay. Their movements were constantly watched. It was difficult for us to communicate until she paid off her debt in January 2019," Nyasha added.
After the debt was paid off, Grace found herself in a different predicament. The visa she was issued was a 60-day tourist visa. Since she had extended her stay, her status was now of an illegal immigrant in India.
"Grace was very strong and adamant. She did not want anyone else to go through what she had to suffer. That's when we decided to make the film." said Nyasha
The first stage of the investigation occurred in Govindpuri, the place where Grace was first taken. Equipped with a hidden camera and microphone, Grace went back to the place were her ordeal had started, the Goldie's Brothel.
Grace had lived there for five months with four other women. The secret camera caught a man exchanging currency notes with one of Goldie's trafficked women, who later left with him. The common term used by girls or women for the woman who trafficks them is 'Mother'. The woman who had trafficked the 'Mother' is referred to as the 'Grandmother'.
Grace's 'Mother' and 'Grandmother' is caught on camera.
After paying off their debts, the women find it increasingly harder to get back to normal lives, without a source of proper income. They are then encouraged to become a 'madam' themselves and bring more women into this. Grace was also expected to do so.
Armed with her hidden camera, scared but determined, Grace went to Eddie for help. Grace pretended that she wanted to know how to bring a woman into the country.
Eddie was then caught on camera offering her advice and told her that he would process the first woman she brought in and that she could do the whole thing herself with the second woman.
In the neighbourhood of Tuglakabad, there existed two establishments called the 'Caro and Paris Kitchens'. The modus operandi of these 'Kitchens' was that the women had to wait for a man to approach and initiate business.
The first man who approached her offered to pay her ₹1000. The question Grace asked at this point was "How many men would I have to sleep with to pay back ₹2,70,000?"
In the course of the investigation, 15 such 'kitchens' were identified across seven neighbourhoods in South Delhi. The chairman of this chain of Kitchens was identified by Grace as a man called Eddie.
On further investigation, Eddie was found to be linked to a group called AINSCA ( All India Nigerian Students and Community Association). They are involved in connecting Nigerian students living in India and providing them with support.
In a circular released by the AINSCA, endorsed by the Nigerian High Commission, Eddie's name came up as the task force chairman of Tuglakabad.
AINSCA, Nigerian Commission Denies Charges
When Nyasha confronted Eddie about his association with the sex trade organisation, he denied any connection and waved his AINSCA card with pride.
The AINSCA and the Nigerian High Commission had similar responses. Both these organisations maintained that their manifesto did not involve anything illegal and worked in accordance with both the Nigerian and Indian laws.
When the BBC contacted the AINSCA officials in New Delhi, they said, "We work in the interest of Nigerian citizens. Mr Eddie Anideh is our Task Force Chairman in Tughlakabad, but his duties are strict as defined in the AINSCA constitution which in no way condones illegal activity."
The Nigerian High Commission too issued a statement in which they said, "The Nigerian High Commission recognises AINSCA. We work with them because it is more practical to provide consular assistance to the many Nigerians who live in India with their cooperation."
"On one side, people could look at this film and think that this perpetuates the stereotype of African people living in India, which I don't think is true for the whole African community. At the same time, the story is affecting a lot of people, the network of traffickers are still at large, it's a big issue that needs to be addressed. The people stuck in this needs our help." said Nyasha.
Grace is now rebuilding her life in Kenya, studying and working part-time.
According to the Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law of The United Nations, Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights, which threatens national security and undermines sustainable development and the rule of law. Trafficking is the third-largest organised crime in the world after drugs and arms trade.
The data tabled in the Parliament recently showed that the number of traffickers arrested in India has increased over the years from 8,220 in 2014 to 10,815 traffickers in 2016.
Nyasha said that it would be of great help to get the word out as not many people in India know about it. "When I researched online, I found only one article. So far the majority of the people who have watched the film are in African countries, not India."