KOLKATA, INDIA – Today, five men were convicted of sex trafficking crimes in two cases in Kolkata. One of the men, a notorious trafficker named Nakul Bera, was also found guilty of rape. It was the first time this particular court gave a conviction for both trafficking and rape in the same case.
In the trial against Nakul Bera, survivors shared how they had been tortured and trapped in the brothel, pictured here. Police locked and sealed the brothel on that very night of rescue. Today, grass grows outside the brothel, indicating it has remained closed ever since.
"We hope these cases can be positive examples for my country, as the police and court officials involved demonstrated competent knowledge of the law, sensitivity to trafficking survivors, and extreme dedication to justice," said IJM attorney Saptarshi Biswas, who provided legal counsel to the trafficking survivors in these cases. "Today, we proved that India's justice system not only can work, it does work."
"One Conviction Keeps Hundreds Of Girls Safe"
The first case began in 2009, when IJM assisted state police in rescuing four young women who had been trafficked and routinely raped for profit. The sex trafficking survivors shared horrific stories of abuse. Three chose to testify in the trial against Nakul Bera, and one explained how Bera would personally rape the girls as a sort of initiation into the brothel.
In their testimonies before the court, the survivors detailed extreme violence they faced in the brothel. If they refused to see a customer, they said they were severely beaten, raped or faced other methods of torture. One girl said she was forced to see up to 25 customers on an average day.
Maya,* one of the survivors who is now living independently, said she had only dared to dream about a day when Bera and the others would be convicted for their crimes. She added, "I also feel that the punishment should be announced, so that all the people doing the wrong things should get scared or frightened about doing these things."
IJM attorney Saptarshi celebrated what justice means for these brave young women, but also explained, "All it takes is one conviction of a man like Nakul Bera to keep hundreds of girls safe."
The Chain Starts To Break Down
The second case began in 2010, when IJM assisted the state police in rescuing a dozen young women from a brothel in a village. Eight of the survivors testified in the trial, explaining how they had been tricked and trafficked under the false pretense of a good job. Instead, the girls said they were assaulted and tortured. They were trapped with no way out.
On the night of their rescue, the brothel owner evaded arrest. But several months later, he was located by police and imprisoned. On March 15, 2013, he was found guilty.
Nisha,* one of the survivors, echoed sentiments shared by the other girls. She said, "The man in jail has a very big chain of brothels. But if the law starts punishing these men and they get the most severe punishment, then this chain will start to break down."
The judge expedited the trial process for both cases, and they concluded on March 15, 2013. The following day, all five men were sentenced to ten years in prison.
"These convictions augment the already growing desire for criminal accountability in India," said IJM Kolkata Director Biju Mathew. "Convictions against well-connected criminals like these send a critical message to other potential traffickers. They must know they will be caught and they will be convicted."
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of these IJM clients.