On Saturday, International Justice Mission (IJM) staff supported senior anti-human trafficking police on a rescue operation to free six girls and young women from exploitation in a notorious red-light district.
One 17-year-old girl’s plight was immediately apparent, as she ran into the arms of a female police officer during the operation. She said her boyfriend had handed her over to a brothel three years prior and she had been moved around to several cities since.
No matter how many times she asked strangers for help, she remained trapped in a cycle of violence.
One other victim from India and four victims from Nepal all said they had followed the promise of good jobs in Mumbai, but instead were trafficked into this brothel – where they faced horrific violence and abuse.
“According to the victims, the accused brothel keeper would force them to attend up to 30 customers a day,” says a social worker present on the rescue. “If they refused, the brothel owner would brutally beat and abuse them.”
IJM and police had been investigating this case for weeks, searching for one of the minor girls in particular. But it took several attempts to move forward due to hectic religious festivals in Mumbai.
“We have noticed an increase in the demand for young girls for commercial sexual exploitation in brothels and red-light areas in the festive season,” explains IJM’s Melissa Walavalkar. “Thus we were even happier to have been able to assist the police in rescuing not just one, but six victims from the brothel.”
Anti-trafficking police arrested one female brothel keeper and are tracing two additional male suspects in the case. They have also ensured all six victims were moved to safety at a government shelter home, where they can begin receiving protective care and rehabilitation.