A trafficking victim is one who is denied her/his basic dignity and respect and whose fundamental control over her/his body, conscience and life is snatched away. Perhaps, disregarding any person’s innate worth of being a human makes her/him a victim of that situation, a victim of those circumstances.
Although all trafficked women are worlds apart in terms of time, place and situation, there is something common that connects them, which binds them. It is something which is rooted in their minds, hearts, and spirits. This commonality isn’t the experience of similar victimhood of being a trafficked woman. It is something that exists much before these women were even trafficked. It is the revolutionary spirit of change. This spirit refers to a state of dissatisfaction in which a person is constantly exploring new opportunities and looking for better alternatives for change. She/he is someone who challenges the status quo. She/he is someone who refuses to follow the social order set by the society.
This spirit isn’t the fallout of modernity but it is something which has existed since ages and society is well aware of it. Since the presence of such ideations goes against the very idea of society, the society feeds mechanisms into the social conscience of the masses to work against non-conformist social behavior. If one talks about a typical societal context, it is no secret how the freedom of fellow citizens especially women is curbed in society. Notions like “Freedom spoils” are widely used to school the individuals in a uniform fashion. At the same time, it is evident from history how even a single individual can bring about radical change in society. So, there is always an ideological tussle that exists between an individual’s idea of change and a community’s idea of change. These ideas of change which seem to be contrary to each other, are actually complementary in nature. Many a times we see an individual affecting a whole society while at other times we see society exerting influence and even force upon individuals to conform to its values. It is actually the synthesis between these two ideations which rotates the wheels of change in society. It is important to clarify here that these ideations don’t work in isolation and are affected by external factors like economic conditions, conservatism or progressiveness, gender and various circumstances. The problem of bride trafficking emerges when people carrying these ideas of change fall into potent circumstances reinforced by external factors which increases their likelihood of getting trafficked.
So it is not the ideas per se but people with revolutionary ideas whose external situation makes them a vulnerable target for trafficking. Here one also needs to see that trafficking isn’t a linear process but a complex and dark conundrum characterized by distortions and charged emotions. In order to understand the state of mind of a victim during the process of trafficking, one has to understand the state of mind of the victim before trafficking.
As discussed above, a mind filled with a revolutionary spirit is very ambitious and entrepreneurial in nature. It is not scared of taking risks. It is aware but isn’t deterred by the external circumstances prevailing in its immediate neighborhood. This outlook exposes it to other people who by leveraging external factors try to cage this flight of liberty and when these uncontrollable external factors are able to trick the mind and extract the initial consent from it in a shroud of connecting it to its aspirations, their dreams are used against them to tie them without using any physical force. This exploitation of dreams and alternatives gives a way for trafficking to take place.
In the next step of trafficking, there is an invasion and coercion against the individual’s will as that isn’t what she/he signed up for. Then the harsh reality strikes the mind and its ambitions are shattered to the ground. At this stage, it is in a state of shock and turbulence, gasping to breathe again in a free sky. Since this condition is one in which its dear spirit of freedom is incarcerated, the mind falls into a state of stupefaction and resorts to self-blame when nothing seems to be going right. Anger begins to arise, not against the oppressor but against themselves. To add to the misery, there are external shocks like an alien language and culture that they have to deal with.
She is either stigmatized or pitied upon but never treated as just another individual who faced a difficult situation.
In the next step, the mind has two options- either to fight or to accept the situation. It is here where the deep-rooted concept of honor starts to emerge. Many feel that it is better to be dead than to go back to the family or society again. It is this dilemma and fear that pushes many to choose incarceration of their freedoms over rescue. Eventually, they succumb to their own false-guilt and try to adapt to the situation annihilating their flame for change forever. At this point, their mind enters into a state of inescapable void thus losing its vitality and the woman surrenders her control over her mind, body, and soul. She becomes a lifeless slave catering to the wants of others. Others, who revolt against the situation, fight and emerge victorious as survivors.
Here, the society doesn’t provide her with a better response mechanism but labels her in order to set an example, warning others of the same fate thereby reinforcing its conformist values. This labeling is aimed to victimize her to ensure that she is never treated normally again. She is either stigmatized or pitied upon but never treated as just another individual who faced a difficult situation. That is why even after a rescue, a woman remains vulnerable and requires rehabilitation intervention to regain normalcy in the daily affairs of her life. Thus, rescue doesn’t really improve the state of her mind. Rather it pushes it deeper into the dungeons of darkness where she develops an apathy towards the society. She becomes rigid and detached from the society.
The following lines aptly describe her state after rescue:
"Sun athilahiye log sab baantnalahiye koi" – everyone will listen to the pain, share will none.
She thus buries all her pain inside her and what remains is a skeleton with flesh on it, devoid of feelings, emotions, and belief. After all, this is what society wants from her. Then she is transferred from one jail to another, which the system calls a “shelter”. A shelter sabotages her idea of freedom and she gets covered with a veil of protectionism. She is told when to brush, eat and sleep, thus taking away her freedom of choice, which anyway was never hers as a victim. She is pushed to her receiving end. At this point, her mind is continually haunted by society. The sheer fear of facing her family and society again is what threatens her the most, as a result of which she internalizes the societal image of her and the stigmatization. She is not the one who she used to be as her perspectives are now colored by society. She gives up her identity to find a place in society. This has a cathartic effect on her mind as it helps her to find some sort of accommodation in society but one which accepts her only as a labeled survivor and never as an individual. She starts celebrating her victimhood as it seems to be the only way to get back to society again. The survivor now fights a battle to survive in the system.
At such a point, rehabilitation intervention appears to be a hoax to her. She has already relinquished all her rights to society. It is important here to tackle the isolation which she has packed herself into. Hence, she is provided with a safe space and a free environment where she can resume her native identity. Her mind is deliberately displaced from its state of being at a receiving end, by neutralizing the social conditioning. Now the focus is on normalizing the situation to end the victimhood within her. This leads her towards owning up her story and eventually her life. She becomes engaged with society as an individual with a distinguished identity. The processes of neutralization and normalization are aimed at resuscitation of the revolutionary in her again.
This journey though, doesn’t end here. Sometimes she starts imbibing the image of the powerful in her life, who in many cases is that of the oppressor. Her mind now attempts to exhibit tendencies similar to those of the oppressor. This is due to the absence of her interaction with the ideals of equality, justice or even solidarity. This phase is one of the most challenging parts of the whole process as here the stress is on making her believe in kindness, something which she has not experienced in her entire life. Society never provided her an appropriate response but now she is asked to believe in a concept strange to her. Here the society comes into action to embrace her with kindness, thus the revolutionary in her meets society again.
The falcon of freedom in her flies, and this time soars high in the sky,
giving society an indication that the revolutionary in her is still alive!