Culture

This documentary exposes sex trafficking in India, a billion-dollar industry

Amoli, by Culture Machine, is the film you need to watch

Commercial sex trafficking in India was worth $32 billion in 2016, when Akanksha Seda stumbled on this statistic. “I was in disbelief; I thought it was a typo. We got in touch with organisations to verify it, and it turned out to be true. That number is probably higher today,” says Seda. She decided to do something about it, and enlisted National Award-winning film-makers Avinash Roy and Jasmine Kaur Roy to the effort.

Akansha Seda Amoli

Akanksha Seda: Creative Head, Amoli
Avinash Roy
Avinash Roy, Filmmaker
Jasmine Kaur Roy
Jasmine Kaur, Filmmaker

After two years and countless interviews with survivors and families of victims across West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Avinash and Jasmine made the documentary Amoli, which released on May 7 on Culture Machine’s YouTube channels (Being Indian for Hindi, Blush for English, Chutney for Tamil, and Viva for Telugu). It also aired on YouTube and Facebook in Bengali, Marathi and Kannada, all in an attempt to help spread the word in areas that are worst hit.

The 30-minute film based on sex trafficking in India follows the story of the titular girl from Siliguri in West Bengal, who went missing in 2013 at the age of 15, and was never found. Through her journey, it sheds light on the workings of the sex trade industry, including how it targets girls from low-income households and lures them in with the promise of gainful employment. “The trade is about supply and demand. And the demand for minors fuels the industry,” adds Avinash. “A lot of them can’t return home or get jobs because of the stigma—some survivors have been in NGO safe houses for over a decade,” says Jasmine.

Watching them narrate their realities behind blurred faces is excruciating, even though the dialogue and conversation is unnervingly transactional—from brothel owners talking prices, to prepubescent girls describing forced BDSM. Despite the soul-stirring melodies by indie songwriter and producer Tajdar Junaid, the end result is a bleak, chilling portrayal of the trade and its victims. “This film is about stoking public compassion and inspiring individual citizens to act,” says Seda. And act, we must. 

DID YOU KNOW?

1. On an average, 40 girls are coerced into prostitution everyday in India. 

2. Before sending her to the final brothel, a trafficker often beats and abuses her to command a 20-percent premium for a 'broken-in' girl. 

3. The purchase price of a virgin minor, between 11 and 14, ranges from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.