Thaiyamma’s Story

Others, Stories

Contributed by: International Justice Mission Canada

The birth of a child should always be a beautiful moment, but for women around the world living in modern-day slavery, pregnancy can be a time of immense fear, pain and desperation.

After Thaiyamma married Devendran, the love of her life, they had a beautiful daughter named Lavanya. They had a job building roads together, but when their daughter fell ill, they took a small loan of about $15 from the owner of a wood-cutting facility to help pay for the treatment.

For just $15, this cruel man gained complete control over every aspect of their lives.

Their abuser and slave owner was a man they called “The Beast”.

The Beast would threaten to hurt or kill them if they ever tried to leave, so Thaiyamma would make a makeshift hammock out of an old sari for little Lavanya and keep her nearby all day. On most days, they were only able to feed their daughter one meal of rice or porridge.

It seemed like everything they did brought out the wrath of The Beast. They laboured, starved, and were beaten. Day after day. Week after week. Life’s only purpose was survival.

Then Thaiyamma realized she was pregnant—again.

As her belly grew, so did the intensity of the work. Forced to cut trees and branches by hand all day long, she wasn’t allowed to sit down or rest. All the while, it became clear that Thaiyamma’s unborn child and little Lavanya would likely grow up to be enslaved if they didn’t find a way out.

One fateful day, IJM accompanied local authorities when they were sent to investigate the wood-cutting facility where Thaiyamma and her family were enslaved. More than three years had passed since they arrived at the facility.

Tired, in pain and desperate for freedom, Thaiyamma harnessed all of her strength to rally men and women at the facility to speak up and tell the truth.

This was their one shot at freedom, and it was now or never.

Thaiyamma stood in front of everyone, looked authorities in the eye and spoke boldly, telling them everything about the abuse and torment they experienced.

With the power of her testimony, the police were moved to act. At the end of the day, Thaiyamma, Devendran, Lavanya and twelve others at the facility were free. The Beast was arrested.

For the first time in six months, she felt joy as the baby leapt in her womb, saying, “I think our baby also got the glimpse of freedom and he’s moving.”