KOLKATA, INDIA – On November 1, 2012, Kolkata police called IJM for assistance with an urgent rescue operation, two staff members mobilized immediately. They met over a dozen police officers at a safe meeting point, then travelled together to the house where they believed two teenage girls had been trafficked for sexual exploitation.
The rescue team entered the house and easily found the small room where both girls had been sold for sex. A single mattress was on the floor; several other mattresses leaned against the wall in the otherwise empty room. The three other people in the house were soon arrested, suspected to be a trafficker, a brothel owner and a customer.
The two girls were initially frightened and unsure who to trust, but an IJM staff member explained to them what was happening: that they weren’t in any trouble, and that the officers were here to help them. As the police gathered evidence and made the arrests, she stayed with the girls.
“It was like I could see a glimpse of hope flicker behind their eyes,” said the IJM staff member later, recalling how the girls started to open up about their past. They said they had accepted job offers to work in a beauty parlor; instead, they had ended up in this house, a brothel. At one point during the operation, one of the girls fainted, overcome with emotion. But they both insisted that the IJM staff person, their new friend, remain by their side.
The very next day, the girls shared their story and testified before the Child Welfare Committee, essentially a children’s court that places trafficking survivors in aftercare homes and helps provide for their continued needs.
Both trafficking survivors expressed relief that they would be going to a new home, a safe shelter for trafficking survivors. One of them is a young mother, but her baby had been living with her own mother. The government agency made sure that the trafficking survivor could go to an aftercare home where she could settle in with her baby, so they can both receive the care they need.
IJM’s lawyers will continue to support this case as it goes to court, and IJM social workers will keep providing counsel to the trafficking survivors as they adjust to life in their new home.
IJM Kolkata Field Office Director Biju Mathew commended the police officers who initiated this successful operation: “The police are equipping themselves to overcome obstacles, rescue sex trafficking victims and push toward a more just society.” Biju added that his IJM staff have led over a dozen police trainings this year on how to investigate and conduct anti-trafficking operations, and some of the police officers had attended one of these trainings.
“We will continue to fight for the thousands of young girls trapped in a world of darkness,” Biju added.