MUMBAI, INDIA – After a month-long investigation, IJM has helped apprehend a man who was allegedly trafficking girls for sex. Police arrested him on a crowded street, and IJM helped rescue the girls who were being offered for sale in broad daylight.
IJM Mumbai Field Office Director Sanjay Macwan explained that the suspected trafficker—and his alleged accomplice, the auto-rickshaw driver arrested with him—seemed to be using a new tactic to sell underage girls, a kind of workaround. By offering girls for sale outside a brothel or building, they believed they could walk away scot-free. "Traffickers continue to employ new methods to continue their illicit business of selling girls for sex, but we are determined to go behind them and continue to rescue girls," Sanjay said.
Free, But Still Fearful
IJM had briefed police about the local trafficking ring and helped prepare for the operation. When the suspect showed up at the meeting place he had arranged with a man he thought was a customer, in front of a restaurant on a crowded street, he started to negotiate the sale of the girls. Police quickly arrested him.
IJM social workers were waiting inside the restaurant, and they came immediately to explain what was happening to the girls. Shalini, one of the IJM Mumbai caseworkers on the scene, said the girls were "very fearful." They seemed to think that they were the ones getting in trouble with the law enforcement officers. Shalini and the other IJM staff reassured the girls that the police were actually there to help set them free.
The girls slowly started to open up as they ate sandwiches and sipped tea inside a private section of the restaurant. Police escorted the girls and IJM staff back to the police station, where they continued to share their stories and also received medical tests. The girls were from all different states throughout India, and one girl explained how she had been tricked into taking what she thought was going to be a good job at a factory.
Shalini said the girls kept asking where they were going to go after the police station. "As long as we were with the girls, we continued to assure them they were safe and that they would be ok," she said. That night, Shalini and the other IJM staff took the girls to a long-term aftercare home for sex trafficking survivors. It was 2 a.m. by the time Shalini and the other staff got home.
IJM lawyers will continue to support the case as it develops against the suspects. And IJM social workers will keep visiting the girls to help them process the trauma and work through their fear so they are truly free.