The first time I went to the red-light area was when I was interviewing for a position with Freedom Firm. Greg asked me if I wanted to visit the red-light area in Nagpur and get a feel for working as an investigator. He told me what to expect and the precautions to be taken but the truth is, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience.
I was strolling down Ganga-Jamuna’s narrow lanes, trying to look casual, when she saw me. She must have been in her late twenties; quite old for this work considering that the area is filled with girls as young as 12-13 years old. She beckoned me into her room, saying that she hadn’t had any customers that day and that she needed money for rent. Before I could decide what to do, she had grabbed me by my shirt, pulled me into the brothel and shut the door. She pressed up against me as she tried taking off my shirt and shoes. Then she asked me to take off my trousers. I was horrified. Never before had I encountered such brazen boldness. When I refused, she started checking my pockets for money. She seemed temporarily satisfied when she found my wallet, but this quickly turned to dismay when she found only Rs. 60 ($1) in it. She demanded more money and grabbed my bike keys, holding me hostage until I capitulated.
Having no choice, I gave her more money only to suddenly find her all over me. Clearly, she thought she now had to give me my money’s worth. I gently pushed her aside and managed to convince her that I wasn’t interested in having sex and just wanted to talk. I wanted to know her story – who was she? How had she ended up in the dark confines of Nagpur’s brothels? If she had the chance to leave, would she take it?
I learned that her boyfriend had abandoned her while she was pregnant with his second child. Orphaned, and a teenage mother of 2 children, she had turned for help to her grandmother who sold her instead. She had been in prostitution for 10 years. Even if she could leave, where would she go?
Having desperately prayed the entire time for a way to extricate myself from this situation, relief washed over me when she eventually got bored of chatting and returned my keys.
This experience and many others that followed impacted me deeply. I realized that these
were young girls who had been turned into commodities by circumstances and traffickers profiting from their helplessness. Betrayed by family and brainwashed into believing that prostitution was their only future, exposure to a life of abuse and the fight for survival had hardened them and made them view prostitution as the accepted norm.
Only long-term counseling and aftercare support would help them come to terms with the abuse they had suffered and the life that had been stolen from them. Our job as investigators was to rescue them from despairing darkness, support them, and
stand with them in the fight for justice.
--Written by Associate Director of Operations