MUMBAI - On the night she was supposed to be raped for the first time, young sex trafficking victim Lona* was plucked from the brink of initiation into a life of forced prostitution by police officials working with International Justice Mission in Mumbai.
Seeking justice doesn’t stop with victim rescue. Perpetrator accountability is necessary not only so Lona can live in freedom from fear, but also so she can be empowered knowing her exploiters have been stopped from doing the same thing to other girls as they tried to do to her.
— Jonathan Derby, IJM Mumbai, Field Office Director
Police rescued the child from the exploitative grip of a Mumbai husband-and-wife couple who had allegedly purchased Lona from a relative in West Bengal for a paltry 1500 rupees—less than $35 US. They intended to exploit the girl’s virginity for a sum of 30,000 rupees, and then sell her to a dance bar or brothel.
When IJM informants learned of Lona’s plight, they alerted police, who conducted a sting operation at a local restaurant the night of August 11, 2009. Lona was brought to safety and stated to police and to IJM social workers that she was just 13. A subsequent age-verification test at a local hospital confirmed that she is indeed a minor. She has been placed in a care home for minor girls rescued from similar situations.
Local police later confirmed that the accused perpetrators had intended to live off the earnings obtained by exploiting Lona. They will be charged with offenses against the Immoral Trafficking in Persons Act (PITA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
“Our entire team was thrilled and relieved when police successfully saved Lona from her oppressors,” says Jonathan Derby, Director of IJM’s Mumbai field office. “This rescue operation has saved a vulnerable child from sexual abuse. It has opened up new freedom, new possibilities and new opportunities for Lona to achieve her dreams.”
Derby explains that in a conversation with IJM social workers after the operation, Lona expressed thanks that she had been rescued, and showed great interest in aftercare and educational opportunities. “Lona has also indicated that she wants her exploiters to be punished, and that she wants to contribute to achieving that end,” he adds. “Seeking justice doesn’t stop with victim rescue. Perpetrator accountability is necessary not only so Lona can live in freedom from fear, but also so she can be empowered knowing her exploiters have been stopped from doing the same thing to other girls as they tried to do to her.”