MUMBAI, INDIA – After a tough legal battle, an Indian court has declared three traffickers guilty of sex trafficking crimes and evicted them from the building they had been using as brothel. The just verdict means each of the traffickers will serve a prison sentence, and it means justice for the four girls who were rescued from the brothel in February 2010.
Neeti* was one of the girls rescued in the undercover operation. She had been trafficked across country borders from Bangladesh. When she was rescued, she said she wanted to go back to her home country. But first, Neeti decided she wanted to participate in the trial against her traffickers. She wanted to see justice done.
The trial began, but it would be a long process. Several hearings were canceled, delaying the case and prolonging Neeti’s time in India. But she persevered, and when she was finally called to the witness stand, Neeti’s testimony was bold. She told the court how she had been brought to Mumbai by someone she trusted, then sold for sex.
Anyone who chooses to testify in a trial about abuse they have endured is choosing to speak of unspeakable horrors in an unfamiliar environment – an incredibly brave decision. IJM Mumbai Director of Legal Michelle Mendonca explained that it is rare for a Bangladeshi girl to choose to testify in an Indian court. Girls from other countries struggle to believe that an Indian court will give them justice because they are foreigners. But, Michelle added, without the testimony of a trafficking survivor, the perpetrators will likely keep operating with impunity, restocking their brothel with other vulnerable girls.
On September 27, 2012, the judge issued three convictions against the traffickers. Michelle’s first thought was of Neeti, the brave survivor who courageously believed justice was possible. She proclaimed that it was “heartening to note that the victim, though she was Bangladeshi, obtained justice in an Indian court!”
Neeti will receive Rs. 10,000 (about $200), and the three traffickers will spend three years in prison. Michelle explained that the court’s ruling was reasonably strong – compensation for Neeti, imprisonment for the traffickers, plus eviction from the brothel building – meaning many more girls will be protected. It’s a message she hopes will spread, so that other brothel owners and pimps will be afraid of the consequences they might face if they get caught trafficking girls.
*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.