Pain of Slavery - PhMuseum

Pain of Slavery

Sandipa Malakar

2019 - Ongoing

Bangladesh

Shefali walked slowly in the heavy downpour, suffering terrible pain in her legs, yet she had to appear at her new job, as she no longer had her old work in Saudi Arabia. She had been hospitalised for nearly two months after being beaten with an electric cable by her Saudi employer. Fortunately she survived the beatings, and returned to Bangladesh with injuries.

In 2018 according to the local NGO BRAC, 1,000 Bengali maids returned to Bangladesh escaping extreme physical and sexual abuse. At least 311 bodies of female migrants were repatriated from Middle Eastern countries, mostly from Saudi Arabia, between January 2016 and June 2019. Among them, 53 cases were of suicide, 120 cases were of death due to chronic diseases and 56 cases were homicide, documented. Every year hundreds of female migrant workers return to Bangladesh after such abuse and in some cases after untimely death. Their migration abroad, undertaken at the cost of mortgaged land and belongings, was to support their families back home, in exchange for the life of a servant in a foreign household. Their suffering often knew no limits – starting from underpayment, denial of food and sexual exploitation, some resulting in unwanted pregnancies. Society and family members have outcast them as they have no idea how to explain to their children their father’s identity.

Beauty, one of the maids returned home after losing her mental stability; she remains shackled as she often behaves violently with her family members. However, when I met her on two consecutive days, I found her friendly and was moved by her emotions. She gradually revealed her tragic story concluding every sentence with the line “Why did it happen to me?! I didn’t do anything wrong!” Beauty repeatedly suffered sexual harassment from recruiting agents, employers and others.

I can still vividly remember those days of nightmares, screaming and crying that day when I was verbally harassed and continuously threatened by a Saudi guy over the Skype during an interview in 2015. I was so miserable that I left my job, stopped interacting with people and at one stage stopped going outside of my room. When I read about the condition of Bangladeshi female migrants about their harassment, I traveled to Bangladesh from Kolkata, India. As a female photographer I felt a strong urge to document their stories of ‘modern slavery’ and share it with the world for making a change.

Photographing traumatised and injured victims is deeply challenging. I take the challenge to portray them as distinguished human beings.

They are not some mere victims or poor labourers but someone’s sisters, wives, daughters or mothers. Most importantly they are human beings, hence entitled to their rights and deserving of respect. It is their hard work abroad that annually brings in around 15 billion dollars every year to Bangladesh’s economy but sadly at the high cost of ‘The pain of slavery'.

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  • Shefali went to Saudi Arabia April 2018. She has been beaten with a
    electric cable often. The Saudi emoloyer gave her food one time per
    day/night. After severe physical and mental torture she managed to
    return home with serious injury and hospitalized for 2 months. She
    has got a job as a nurse in Bangladesh even without being properly cured from her
    illness. Her husband is unemployed and criticized her as “ Bad
    Woman” even though she runs the family. Singair, Bangladesh 2019.

  • Shefali went to Saudi Arabia April 2018. She has been beaten with a
    electric cable often. The Saudi emoloyer gave her food one time per
    day/night. After severe physical and mental torture she managed to
    return home with serious injury and hospitalized for 2 months. She
    has got a job as a nurse in Bangladesh even without being properly cured from her
    illness. Her husband is unemployed and criticized her as “ Bad
    Woman” even though she runs the family. Singair, Bangladesh 2019

  • Beauty used to be a good student but her parents arranged her early
    marriage. After her marriage she came to know that her husband has
    another wife. She became very shocked and felt betrayed. With the
    help of a local travel agent, she went to Lebanon in 2009. The son of her
    employer sexually assaulted her. She returned Bangladesh and
    again went to Qatar for work. But again she was physically tortured,
    and became mentally sick. With the help of Bangladeshi authority she
    returned home with severe mental disorder. She spent her time at her
    village home chained up most of the time. Manikganj, Bangladesh 2019

  • Beauty used to be a good student but her parents arranged her early
    marriage. After her marriage she came to know that her husband has
    another wife. She became very shocked and felt betrayed. With the
    help of a local travel agent, she went to Lebanon in 2009. The son of her
    employer sexually assaulted her. She returned Bangladesh and
    again went to Qatar for work. But again she was physically tortured,
    and became mentally sick. With the help of Bangladeshi authority she
    returned home with severe mental disorder. She spent her time at her
    village home chained up most of the time. Manikganj, Bangladesh 2019

  • Part of the tree where Beauty has been tied up with the chain. Manikganj, Bangladesh 2019

  • Saudi visa of Beauty.She used to be a good student but her parents arranged her early
    marriage. After her marriage she came to know that her husband has
    another wife. She became very shocked and felt betrayed. With the
    help of a local travel agent, she went to Lebanon in 2009. The son of her
    employer sexually assaulted her. She returned Bangladesh and
    again went to Qatar for work. But again she was physically tortured,
    and became mentally sick. With the help of Bangladeshi authority she
    returned home with severe mental disorder. She spent her time at her
    village home chained up most of the time. Manikganj, Bangladesh 2019

  • Monowara lives with her aunt along with a cat.Monowara got married when she was only 11 years old. She lived with
    her husband for 10 years. Her husband sent her Lebanon as a
    maidservant as their economic condition was not good. After working there
    one and half year the wife of the employer gave her an injection to be
    physically fit. But after the injection she has developed mental disorder
    and felt sick. After that the employer sent her back to Bangladesh.
    Staying 9 months with her family in Bangladesh she went to Dubai to
    work again. But she couldn’t continue there, as she got mentally sickess again. She returned home and stayed another year with
    her family. Finally she went to Saudi Arabia, with the help of a local
    agent. After working there five months, she didn’t get any salary,
    moreover she has been locked into the room. She is back home now and
    getting better after the treatment but her biggest disappointment is
    that “ My son doesn’t call me mother, because his school friends told
    him that your mother is mad, she is not normal.” Singair,Bangladesh, 2019

  • Monowara has to take lots of medicines for his mental treatment.Monowara got married when she was only 11 years old. She lived with
    her husband for 10 years. Her husband sent her Lebanon as a
    maidservant as their economic condition was not good. After working there
    one and half year the wife of the employer gave her an injection to be
    physically fit. But after the injection she has developed mental disorder
    and felt sick. After that the employer sent her back to Bangladesh.
    Staying 9 months with her family in Bangladesh she went to Dubai to
    work again. But she couldn’t continue there, as she got mentally sickess again. She returned home and stayed another year with
    her family. Finally she went to Saudi Arabia, with the help of a local
    agent. After working there five months, she didn’t get any salary,
    moreover she has been locked into the room. She is back home now and
    getting better after the treatment but her biggest disappointment is
    that “ My son doesn’t call me mother, because his school friends told
    him that your mother is mad, she is not normal.” Singair Bangladesh, 2019.

  • Monowara lives with her aunt along with a cat.Monowara got married when she was only 11 years old. She lived with
    her husband for 10 years. Her husband sent her Lebanon as a
    maidservant as their economic condition was not good. After working there
    one and half year the wife of the employer gave her an injection to be
    physically fit. But after the injection she has developed mental disorder
    and felt sick. After that the employer sent her back to Bangladesh.
    Staying 9 months with her family in Bangladesh she went to Dubai to
    work again. But she couldn’t continue there, as she got mentally sickess again. She returned home and stayed another year with
    her family. Finally she went to Saudi Arabia, with the help of a local
    agent. After working there five months, she didn’t get any salary,
    moreover she has been locked into the room. She is back home now and
    getting better after the treatment but her biggest disappointment is
    that “ My son doesn’t call me mother, because his school friends told
    him that your mother is mad, she is not normal.” Singair,Bangladesh, 2019

  • Relatives try to console Maksuda after she heard the death news of her friend Najma Begum.Najma Begum called her friend Maksuda before she died. She was very
    sick and saying” Please save me, I am going to die, they are killing me.” Najma went
    to Saudi Arabia to work with a house visa. Manikganj, Bangladesh,2019

  • Rajib shows the torture face of his mother Najma Begum in his mobile. Najma
    to Saudi Arabia to work with a house visa. After few days she has been
    tortured and at one stage she became very sick and died. The family
    members still waiting to receive the body from Saudi Arabia. Manikganj, Bangladesh 2019.

  • Kabirun went to Saudi Arabia in March 2019. Her husband left her
    when her son was only 3 months old. After struggling several years
    finally she decided to go to Saudi Arabia to work as a maidservant with
    a house visa. She was promised to get $ 250 dollar per month. But after
    working three months when she asked for the salary the wife of the
    employer beat her up and at one stage held her neck and pushed her from
    the 2nd floor of the house.Having severe injury in the backbone and fracture in her legs she got admitted in the hospital by the Saudi police. She
    survived but now she is completely disabled, could not move without the
    wheelchair. ‘ wanted to file a case but because of money and proper support I couldn’t proceed but I want justice before I die.’ She said. Islampur, Sylhet, Bangladesh 2019

  • Kabirun went to Saudi Arabia in March 2019. Her husband left her
    when her son was only 3 months old. After struggling several years
    finally she decided to go to Saudi Arabia to work as a maidservant with
    a house visa. She was promised to get $ 250 dollar per month. But after
    working three months when she asked for the salary the wife of the
    employer beat her up and at one stage held her neck and pushed her from
    the 2nd floor of the house.Having severe injury in the backbone and fracture in her legs she got admitted in the hospital by the Saudi police. She
    survived but now she is completely disabled, could not move without the
    wheelchair. ‘ wanted to file a case but because of money and proper support I couldn’t proceed but I want justice before I die.’ She said. Islampur, Sylhet, Bangladesh 2019

  • Poverty stricken home of Jaismin. Women like her generally go to Middle East for better livelihood. Jaismin went to Jordon to work as a maidservant with a house visa. She
    started to work with in the employer’s house but suddenly she got trapped
    by a woman who runs a brothel. She started to mix up with the clients and
    became pregnant. In the meantime her employer filed a general diary as
    she fled away without informing them. Police arrested and sent her into lock up.
    After two months in the lock up, she returned to Bangladesh and gave
    birth of a girl in Bangladesh. Relatives and neighbors has outcast
    her from the community. She doesn’t know how to survive with her
    daughter. Singair, Bangladesh 2019

  • Jaismin went to Jordon to work as a maidservant with a house visa. She
    started to work with in the employer’s house but suddenly she got trapped
    by a woman who runs a brothel. She started to mix up with the clients and
    became pregnant. In the meantime her employer filed a general diary as
    she fled away without informing them. Police arrested and sent her into lock up.
    After two months in the lock up, she returned to Bangladesh and gave
    birth of a girl in Bangladesh. Relatives and neighbors has outcast
    her from the community. She doesn’t know how to survive with her
    daughter. Singair, Bangladesh 2019

  • Dalia went to Saudi Arabia with a “house visa” on 11 July 2018. From the
    beginning the Saudi employer and his wife beat her up for any of her small mistakes. One day, wife of the lemployer cut her hands severely with
    blades. After the torture she sold Dalia to another family via a recruiting
    office. The new employer agreed to give her only food but not the
    treatment cost. Then one day, the brother of the le’s employer’s wife proposed
    her for physical relation. She denied. After that she was sold again to
    another man. That man tried to rape her and while escaping she jumped from the 2 nd floorof a building. She was severely injured , Saudi Police took her to the
    hospital for treatment. After getting treatment for two and half months she
    returned to Bangladesh. Jurain, Dhaka, Bangladesh 2019

  • Dalia with her son Abid. She left Abid with her family members when she went to Saudi Arabia with a “house visa” on 11 July 2018. From the
    beginning the Saudi employer and his wife beat her up for any of her small mistakes. One day, wife of the lemployer cut her hands severely with
    blades. After the torture she sold Dalia to another family via a recruiting
    office. The new employer agreed to give her only food but not the
    treatment cost. Then one day, the brother of the le’s employer’s wife proposed
    her for physical relation. She denied. After that she was sold again to
    another man. That man tried to rape her and while escaping she jumped from the 2 nd floorof a building. She was severely injured , Saudi Police took her to the
    hospital for treatment. After getting treatment for two and half months she
    returned to Bangladesh. Jurain, Dhaka, Bangladesh 2019

  • Asma with her child.Asma went to Saudi Arabia with a house visa in 2018. After two months of working
    she has been raped repeatedly by the employer and became pregnant. She couldn’t do any job now because of the social unacceptance. Tongi, Bangladesh 2019

  • Asma went to Saudi Arabia with a house visa in 2018. After two months of working
    she has been raped repeatedly by the employer and became pregnant. She couldn’t do any job now because of the social unacceptance. Tongi, Bangladesh 2019


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