FJA Shortlist 2021

Category: Outstanding Investigative Reporting

Authors: Yudhijit Bhattacharjee and Smita Sharma

Stolen lives: The harrowing story of two girls sold into sexual slavery

The original publication is available via the following link:

National Geographic - September 28, 2020

Trafficking minors for sex is a multibillion-dollar industry that spans the globe. One region in India and Bangladesh has emerged as a hub of this illicit trade.

After a fight with her mother, R. left her home near Kolkata, one of India’s largest cities. At a train station, she met some men who tricked her and took her to a red-light district in the city. “They were laying a trap for me,” she said. Many girls who are trafficked in their teens spend the rest of their lives in brothels. R. was rescued before she was sold to one. “I just got lucky,” she said. She was sent to a shelter called Sneha run by Sanlaap, a nonprofit that prepares victims to rebuild their lives. R., who is now an adult, and some of the other girls in this story were photographed at Sneha.

About this story: To protect the privacy of the girls who were trafficked and to comply with Indian laws on identifying victims of sexual crimes, we are not disclosing their identities or those of their family members. We photographed them in ways intended to obscure their faces and altered some images to hide distinguishing features. We use pseudonyms for the girls featured in the story.

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A shorter version of this article appears in the October 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Read the story in Bengali or Hindi