This update presents an overview of the activities of the Rescuing girls from forced prostitution in India project. We’ve also included a brief story of the struggles experienced by a rescued girl, to help explain the nature of the situation and the challenges these girls and our local partner face.
A more comprehensive overview of the results and outcomes of the project for the full period of 2015 will be posted in the next report in March 2016.
The rescue team has conducted numerous investigative trips and 10 raids to date (November 2015), in which 34 girls have been successfully rescued. Out of the rescued girls, 14 are children under the age of eighteen years old.
We are proud of the work of the rescue teams, which has enabled these girls to escape the horrors of forced prostitution and start to build their own paths for a better future.
It has been a busy time for the aftercare team as they travelled across the country to follow up on girls that were previously rescued and to check on their progress. The team made home-inquiry trips in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. The social workers also regularly visited previously rescued girls residing in shelter homes in Pune, Kolkata, Nagpur and Mumbai, to provide follow-up support and counselling. The aftercare team has also facilitated medical assistance and carried out hobby classes, group therapy and counselling to over 60 girls at shelters in Nagpur and Pune.
Freedom Firm’s jewellery-making vocational training programme, Ruhamah Designs, also supported by Free a Girl, conducted a one-month training program in the month of June. They trained interested girls to gain a livelihood in jewellery making. Ten girls who were part of the training are now employees at Ruhamah Designs creating beautiful jewellery, three days a week! The other two days a week the girls receive life skills training and basic, non-formal education. This aims to equip them with the tools to be able to cope with the challenges of daily life and to help them integrate into mainstream life.
Access to justice
The legal department consists of Freedom Firm staff as well as local advocates in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Ahmednagar, Sangli, Akola and Nagpur. Freedom Firm has worked alongside these advocates to follow up on several cases in the past months to continue fighting for justice. The legal team has also provided legal aid and coordination and logistics support for the girls’ court depositions. The team also advocated before government officials for the protection and safety of rescued girls.
Struggling for protection and a better life: a rescued girl’s story
Below is a case from Freedom Firm explaining the situation of young Priya*, a beneficiary who was rescued a few years ago. Priya’s case reminds us of the dangers and continuous threat of re-trafficking of victims of forced prostitution. It also reminds us of the weak legal and government systems that often do not sufficiently protect these girls.
When Priya was rescued in 2013, she was only 11 or 12 years old and probably the youngest girl Freedom Firm has ever rescued.
The woman accused of forcing Priya into prostitution, escaped and fled during the raid of her brothel in May 2013. She applied for anticipatory bail but was denied. We understand that she is well-known in the red-light area with good connections. In spite of the anticipatory bail being denied, the accused woman was never arrested.
After the rescue, Freedom Firm added Priya’s case to the ongoing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court in order to protect her. As a result the Court ordered “no release or transfer to take place unless approved by that higher Court.”
The accused woman visited Priya in the government shelter and submitted applications to the Child Welfare Committee for custody even though she isn’t Priya’s mother. All of this was done with active warrants under the accused’s name. The Child Welfare committee denied this request for custody, but then the accused appealed to the Sessions Court. After Freedom Firm learnt about this, they submitted documents, including the High Court directions, to the Public Prosecutor to oppose any release. The accused got wind of this and withdrew her application for appeal.
Priya’s case is just one among approximately 20 mentioned in the PIL before the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench. Each case reads a little differently, but the common thread is that the perpetrators who forced these girls into prostitution aggressively attempt to re-traffick rescued minor girls by directly engaging the very same government and legal systems that are set up to protect those girls.
We are trying to enroll Priya in an education program but even that is slow-moving, waiting for authorities to act. Priya is still a child, and deserves a life and still has a chance for one.
The legal team has sought a court order for Priya’ss rehabilitation, who is still a minor (under the age of eighteen). The application requested that she is transferred to another home in Mumbai so that she can continue her education. We are waiting for government authorities to submit their plan and hoping for a positive judge to take this case further.
*The beneficiary’s name has been changed to preserve anonymity and confidentiality.