MUMBAI – Last month, Manali* was trafficked into forced prostitution in a well-known red light area of Mumbai. But, on the very day she was brought to the Bori Chawl brothel, IJM and local police conducted an operation there, freeing her from a terrible future of forced prostitution, as well as securing the rescue of three more young women and the arrest of both the brothel owner and brothel keeper.
IJM first received word in mid-April that at least one minor girl was being forced into prostitution in this brothel. After investigators confirmed the details, IJM informed the police the next morning. The Deputy Commissioner of Police scheduled a rescue operation for that night.
[Manali was] ecstatic that she was rescued. We could feel the joy on her face.
— IJM social worker
At about 7:30 in the evening, the police and IJM team made their way down a busy side street in Mumbai to the targeted brothel. Upon entering, the police arrested the brothel keeper and proceeded to search for the victims being held there. Four women and girls were found in the small rooms, including Manali. The police also conducted a search in the area for the brothel owner and found and arrested him the same night.
The rescued women and girls explained how they were being forced to prostitute, as IJM social workers assured them they didn’t need to be afraid. “The girls soon warmed up to us and, after a time, they were all laughing and felt very comforted,” explains Sharon Gonsalves, an IJM staff member. “At first, Manali was a bit scared, but she too was soon laughing and ecstatic that she was rescued. We could feel the joy on her face,” Sharon continues.
Manali had come to Mumbai only two days before to begin a new life with her boyfriend – but he had deceived her, and trafficked her upon their arrival in the city. “Manali underwent a lot. Her boyfriend betrayed her by selling her to the brothel owner. I am so happy that we were able to rescue her just in time,” says another IJM social worker.
The other women and girls explained to IJM staff that they saw five to six customers on a daily basis, and up to ten customers on the weekends. The brothel keeper never allowed them to leave the building and berated and threatened them if they refused to attend to customers. Due to her timely rescue, however, Manali was spared from this terrible abuse.
Manali expressed her shock at the betrayal she had experienced and her deep gratitude to be free: “I was helpless. My body became numb and underwent a sense of betrayal. I am happy about my rescue from that hell. I am grateful to IJM and the police and want to go back to my parents’ home.”
One woman impacted by the operation shared with the social workers that that she had willingly entered prostitution because her husband left her and she has a child to support – she said she had no other option. “I am in this trade because I don’t have anything,” she explained to the social workers. However, she expressed a desire to leave the brothel and learn vocational skills to support herself and her child in the future. While IJM Mumbai’s casework focus is to bring protection to victims of trafficking – both minors and majors who have been forced into the sex trade – they will also help this woman to access services she has requested so she can build a new life for herself and her child.
IJM social workers escorted the women and girls to aftercare homes after the rescue operation. Some will soon return home to their families while others will remain at the aftercare homes to begin their new lives. They will ensure Manali and the others rescued from this abusive brothel have access to the services they need to heal. IJM Mumbai’s legal team will continue to support the prosecution of the two arrested perpetrators.