For IJM Kolkata Field Office Director Biju Mathew, it's been impossible not to start the new year with hope, even amidst great darkness: "Here in Kolkata, we have already seen unprecedented action from the government to stop all kinds of rape, from domestic violence to sex trafficking," he says. "As India mourns the death of a rape victim in Delhi, the world is asking 'How will the government respond?'" For Biju, the fact that the Kolkata police have called IJM for help with half a dozen separate sex trafficking cases is a powerful sign of momentum.
Sold For Sex Out Of A Home
On January 8, 2013, IJM received a call from Kolkata police. They believed girls under 18 were being sold for sex – not in a red-light district, but in a residential neighbourhood. Within minutes, IJM staff members were headed to the South Kolkata neighborhood to meet the police. They arrived at what looked like a typical house, and police led the way inside. The woman suspected of running her home as a brothel was quickly placed under arrest, and the others searched for the girls.
Inside the dimly lit bedrooms, IJM and their law enforcement partners found two young women. One of them explained that her husband was sick and she had been desperate to help him. Another girl, a teenager, said she had no father and was destitute. After they gave statements to the police about the brothel, the teenage girl went to a secure aftercare home where she can receive the proper attention and care she needs.
Uncovering More Darkness
Just days later, IJM received another last-minute call from the Kolkata Police. Within half an hour, an IJM staff member was on her way to the police station. Together, the rescue team drove to a private residence, this time a large apartment building. When they arrived, they discovered two men inside the well-kept apartment with two young women.
The story that unfolded was sadly a common one. The teenage girl explained how her father had been sick and was hospitalized. One of the men in the room – the suspected trafficker – had befriended her and even bought medicine for her father. He was kind, and she thought they were falling in love. And then, he raped her. He told the girl that she would have to obey him, or else he would tell her father that she was a "bad girl."
The other woman said she had come to the apartment thinking she was actually answering a legitimate job request. As both young women shared more, it was apparent that the man had developed an intricate story of promise and glamor designed to attract vulnerable young women like these two. The suspected trafficker and the other man were arrested. IJM will support the case against them as it develops.
The Momentum Continues
And just today, January 18, IJM helped police with another rescue operation to free girls who had been trafficked to a private home. Two suspects were arrested and are now in custody. The survivors will spend the night in a safe shelter with social workers and IJM staff who can provide the immediate care they need. Tomorrow, these girls will wake up in freedom.
IJM lawyers will support the cases that develop against the suspects arrested during each operation. As the trafficking survivors settle into long-term aftercare homes, IJM social workers will continue to meet with them to help them process the trauma and build a new life.