Naseema: Story of a girl who took on sex trafficking in Bihar

By Mohd Hasnain Arij for,

Muzaffarpur: When she grew up and started schooling she was told not to disclose her address to her classmates. Today her home is regularly visited by media, commoners and NGOs. Naseema, now 30, had to endure the stigma of being resident of sex workers colony, popularly known as red light area all these years. Overcoming all pressure to get involved in the trade of the area, she studied till matriculation, and then launched anti-trafficking drive. This past March she won Real Hero award from CNN-IBN and Reliance for her heroic deed.

Her family would live in the Lalten Patti area of Chatarbhuj Sthan locality in Muzaffarpur town. The locality is divided between Tawaif Mandi and Lalten Patti – first is the residence of singers and qawwals while the latter had several houses of sex workers.

Naseema grew up in Lalten Patti seeing clients entering those homes in the darkness of night. She also saw several police raids in the locality, and at her home also as some of her family members were in the flesh trade. When police would raid her home, she was woken up in the night and forced to read book loudly – to make the police believe the house has a normal respected family, not sex workers.

She began to feel the stigma when she was in class IV. Her mother told her not to give address of home to any one. At annual functions at school, she would be aloof, just looking at the crowd from her classroom. Even when she did matriculation she gave wrong address to her classmates.

When in class VII, her mother did second marriage, and her life became darker. She often would sit on the roof and think about her future. But there was something good for her. Soon after her mother’s second marriage, her grandmother took her to Sitamadhi. Naseema joined an NGO there to continue her education. Despite all odds she did matriculation. But the real turn in her life came later.

One day in 2002 she was at her relative’s shop in Muzaffarpur’s red light area. The Police raided the area. Women and girls were forced out of homes and beaten up. A lady police officer was leading the raid. Naseema was happy and sad as well. She was happy to see woman police officer but sad because innocents, some of them were her friends, were being beaten up by male policemen. These women were brought from somewhere by middlemen. They were forced into the flesh trade.

The scene shook her from inside and she decided to do something to check sex trafficking, to release the bonded girls and educate them. She set up Parcham NGO. The same room where she spent her childhood was the office of Parcham. The brave young girl took on the veterans of the trade and secured release of several hundreds minor sex workers.

To spread her thinking she brought out a hand-written magazine Jugnu. It soon became popular in red light areas in other districts. She became famous. She and her work were covered in local and national media. And on March 10, 2010 CNN-IBN and Reliance jointly gave her Real Hero award in the presence of Bollywood stars Amir Khan, Sunil Shetti and businessman Mukesh Ambani. Receiving the award, Naseema had tears in her eyes.

When this correspondent met her on March 20 at her home, she was with some girls and women. She said they want work from the government, they want name and identity. “We are not sex workers, we are daughters of this society,” said Naseema who while living amidst sex workers succeeded in protecting her own character, and many others’.

(Mohd Hasnain Arij is a freelance journalist based in Muzaffarpur, Bihar)