MUMBAI, INDIA – Three young girls who were being repeatedly sexually assaulted have been rescued by local police and IJM. The girls are now safe, and their rescue demonstrates a strong partnership against sexual violence between police and NGOs in Mumbai.
The rescue on October 1 was possible because the youngest girl, only 8 years old, spoke up. She complained to a teacher at her daycare center about pain she was having when she used the restroom. The teacher asked more questions, and she was horrified to hear the little girl's story: A shop owner less than half a mile from the daycare center was sexually assaulting this girl then shoving 10 or 20 rupees into her hands to keep quiet—about a quarter.
The daycare center is part of an NGO that works in one of Mumbai's red-light districts, providing services like food and shelter to children of commercial sex workers. The organization has worked with IJM in the past, and they immediately called one of IJM Mumbai's lawyers for help on how to proceed. Within a few short days, IJM gathered evidence and presented the case to police.
A female police inspector led the operation with professionalism and compassion, beginning by interviewing the 8-year-old girl and two others, 11 and 13. The 8-year-old told how she lives with her mother, a sex worker, and sleeps underneath one of the brothel's beds. As she recounted the violence, she drew sketches of the kind of assaults she had endured. One of the other girls shared how the shop owner made them watch pornographic videos.
The police officer and IJM Mumbai staff explained to the girls that they had done nothing wrong and would be going to a place where they would be safe. After receiving medical exams, IJM escorted the girls to a good government shelter where they will get the crisis care they need.
The shop owner, a 50-year-old Indian man, was arrested late that same night. He has been charged with several criminal offenses, including a charge under India's new Protection Of Children from Sexual Offenses law. IJM will continue to support the case as it develops.