CHENNAI, India, March 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When
Regina Khatoon, a sex trafficking survivor from the Indian city
of Kolkata, heard about women being exploited in a spinning mill
more than 1,000 miles away, she decided to write them a letter
urging them to stay strong.
For the past six months, Khatoon and other survivors of
forced prostitution have gathered together to write letters of
support to victims of sex trafficking and forced labour whose
stories appear in the news.
After the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported that six women
at a spinning mill in Tamil Nadu state had appealed to
authorities for help after suffering sexual harassment from a
supervisor and other male workers, Khatoon felt compelled to
In a letter, she and 12 other trafficking victims from West
Bengal told the women they understood their pain and applauded
their bravery in risking their jobs to challenge the abuse,
which included being groped and having pay deducted for
resisting unwanted advances.
"It is difficult to put into words how we felt when we heard
about the disgusting behaviour of the supervisor and the male
workers of the mill," they wrote.
"Our hopes, courage and resilience are with you, please stay
More than 18 million people are enslaved in India, many of
them women and girls sold into brothels or workers trapped in
brick kilns and garment factories, according to the latest
Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation.
Khatoon, who was sold into a brothel at the age of 13, told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation she felt connected to the Tamil
"I have been through the suffering they are going through
and I want to tell them they are not alone in their fight."
Psychologists say sharing solidarity with other victims is
highly effective in allowing trafficking survivors to deal with
the past and cope with the present.
Uma Chatterjee, a psychologist with non-profit Sanjog, said
that letter-writing helps survivors deal with the most common
question they grapple with: "Why me?"
"It helps them realise they are not alone and connects them
with each other, strengthening their claim to justice and
equity," said Chatterjee, who also helped translate the letter
from Bengali to English.
"I felt a lot of anger that the women in the mill were
facing so much harassment," said Khatoon.
"For four years, I was imprisoned, beaten, abused and raped,
before finally being rescued," she said. "But these women are
still stuck in the mill, their abuse continues."
Five of the women still work at the mill. They acknowledged
receipt of the letter through a former colleague to the Thomson
Reuters Foundation but declined to comment on it.
(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ed Upright and Katie
Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit