Last month, IJM supported Mumbai authorities in rescuing five girls and young women from a small, cluttered apartment where they were being repeatedly sold for sex. Police have also arrested a 35-year-old woman suspected of exploiting these victims to a network of private customers.
In this case, the suspect would secretly share images of the girls to potential customers over social media and then, based on the customer’s selection, force the girls to come to her home on demand. The girls and young women she abused lived nearby in the community, but the suspect would use shame and threats of violence to ensure they always came back to her.
IJM and local authorities have noticed many trafficking networks beginning to operate this way. Over the last ten years, police in Mumbai have more consistently enforced the law in traditional red-light areas, brothels and lodges in order to find and protect minors. As a result, some traffickers have attempted to operate only through close networks and unassuming homes to avoid being caught.
IJM began working with police on this case in early September, but the first rescue attempt was called off due to public protests in the target area. On the second attempt, authorities were able to safely infiltrate the home and confirm all five young women were indeed trafficking victims.
Authorities have filed a case against the suspect under India’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws. So far, police have confirmed one of the victims is a minor and are working with the four others to determine their ages. All of the survivors have been brought to a safe shelter to begin recovering as the government’s relevant agencies strategize on their long-term aftercare.
Throughout this rescue operation, the IJM team was especially thankful for Senior Police Inspector Jagdeo Kalapad, a former member of the police Anti-Human Trafficking Unit who now leads the Malvani Police Station in Mumbai. He ensured his officers followed anti-trafficking best practices and treated victims with respect throughout the operation.
“The efficiency of Senior Police Inspector Kalapad and his team represents the proactiveness and skill of our police force in combating sexual exploitation of minors in the city,” says Melissa Walavalkar, IJM’s director of operations in Mumbai. “We believe that such active rescues, arrests and eventual convictions will continue to strongly deter perpetrators. IJM is glad to have been of assistance, especially with respect to post-rescue support and counseling of the victims.”