Five years after their rescue, two teen girls from Bangladesh can rest easier knowing the law is on their side.
Late last month, the two men who trafficked these girls to Kolkata and plotted to sell them for sex were finally found guilty for their crimes.
Handing down 10-year prison sentences to each, the judge added, “The crimes are grave and the punishment must be such that people think twice before committing them.”
The judgments represent promising momentum in the fight to end sex trafficking in Kolkata, especially in cross-border cases like this one.
“With overjoyed hearts, we are rejoicing in this victory,” shared IJM’s Saji Philip. “Justice for the poor is not denied.”
Rescued Right on Time
The rescued girls in this case are cousins from an impoverished village in Bangladesh. Back in 2013, one girl’s brother-in-law convinced the pair to travel to India for a tour. He and a friend transported the girls by bus to Kolkata, where they secretly plotted to sell the girls to sex traffickers.
Fortunately, Kolkata police got wind of the scheme and called for IJM’s help in an urgent rescue operation. The team intercepted the bus right on time and arrested the two men, along with their four Indian accomplices. (These four were later acquitted.)
When IJM caseworkers spoke to the girls during the rescue operation, it was obvious they had no idea what was going on. Just 14 or 15 years old, they believed they were going on a tour of India.
“It was heart-breaking to hear these two cousins talk about the exciting promise of new sights and adventure,” said one IJM social worker. “I was so relieved and thankful that their day hadn’t ended in a nightmare...They are so innocent and, because they were rescued before the abuse, they can remain that way.”
Justice Delayed, but Not Denied
The legal trial against the Bangladeshi suspects dragged for five years due to court delays, judge transfers, and stall tactics from the defendants’ lawyer. It also took time to hear from all 12 witnesses who took part in the trial.
These delays caused significant heartbreak for the two survivors, since they were required to stay in India as the case progressed. IJM’s aftercare team worked relentlessly to ensure they could stay in touch with their families, take part in life-giving education activities, and get adequate therapy to overcome the trauma of trafficking. They were able to return to Bangladesh in September 2017.
Today, the girls can finally celebrate that the ordeal is behind them, and IJM is hopeful these strong convictions illustrate a justice system ready to defend the poor.
“IJM believes that this will create a deterrence as we combat cross-border sex trafficking,” says Saji Philip. “This is truly an historic win as we embark on a journey to fight for the vulnerable. We look for this judgment to bring in a tidal wave of change to create a system where justice for the poor is never denied.”