For 20 years after she married her husband, Leelu Bai—a woman from India’s Thane District—went to work in the house of her husband’s landlord every day at 6:00 a.m. After cleaning and fetching water, Leelu would go to work on the farm, cutting and threshing until 7:00 p.m. or later. When the sun went down, she would sometimes be called back to the landlord’s home to clean and wash again. Only after the landlord’s home was in acceptable condition was Leelu allowed to return to her own home to feed and care for her family.
As described by Anti-Slavery International, the family of Leelu’s husband had been bonded to the same landlord for three generations. They were indebted to the landlord for loans taken out to pay for marriages, illnesses, education and necessities of survival. The family’s landlord forbade them from working for any other landlords, and beatings were an ever-present threat.
Bonded labor, according to Anti-Slavery International, is the modern world’s most widely used method of enslaving people. A $30 debt can result in four years of bonded labor.