Last week, IJM helped Kolkata’s anti-trafficking police rescue two sex trafficking victims and arrest five criminals, including a notorious trafficker named Archana* we have been pursuing for years.
In this case, Archana was exploiting two sisters from a poor community. Twenty-one-year-old Reena* had been abused by the trafficking network for several years. Fifteen-year-old Simi* was about to be sold for sex for the first time. Fortunately she was rescued before Archana could close the deal. Both sisters are now safe at an aftercare shelter.
“Over the last decade, Archana is well-known to have brought several children into the sex trade,” explains Saji Philip, IJM’s director in Kolkata. “She has been on the radar of the police and IJM staff for the past several years. However, she slipped away from the police after exerting influence and power.”
Archana operated with impunity by avoiding traditional red-light districts. She worked in private homes in quiet neighborhoods, where no one would suspect sex trafficking was taking place.
Police have now traced her as a common link between 14 pimps in six individual IJM cases. Several survivors have also pointed to Archana as a trafficking ring-leader. Philip says her arrest is a significant victory, adding, “The arrest of the kingpin will lead to a significant dent to this network of criminals.”
Emboldened by her perceived power, however, Archana and her accomplices were unafraid as they explained their tactics to police after the operation. One pimp flatly stated he ran the business from his home to earn easy money.
Philip describes, “The perpetrators displayed a shocking level of confidence against the police and prosecutors, showing no respect to the rule of law and least concern to the dignity and respect of the victims.”
It also became clear Archana had a strong support system enabling her power: A group of eight defense lawyers were waiting to bail out Archana even before the rescue team had reached the police station. And at the subsequent court hearing, Archana’s relatives and several defense lawyers threatened Reena against testifying.
Despite their attempts, Archana and the other suspects have been charged under India’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws.
The judge overseeing the case instructed police to complete their investigations quickly—a strong sign that the justice system is ready to respond and bring Archana’s reign of impunity to an end.
*Pseudonyms have been used to protect confidentiality in this case.