According to Indian law, when girls are rescued, they are immediately sent to a government remand home while the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) processes their case. Asha, Freedom Firm’s social worker in Nagpur, visits the newly rescued girls three times a week to provide counseling and support. Jaya, another Freedom Firm worker, makes crafts with the girls as a creative way to build relationships.
It’s heartbreaking work. Within just a few weeks after rescue, most of the young girls are released by the CWC. Brothel keepers posing as parents falsify birth certificates and demand the release of the girls. Many CWC members, fully aware of the ruse, release the girls back into the custody of the perpetrators. Money passes hands, bribes are accepted and those who by law are meant to protect the girls, make them vulnerable once again. Back in the hands of their brothel keepers, the girls are re-trafficked and often show up in subsequent raids. The same girls rescued only months before are rescued yet again and released again.
Freedom Firm has worked hard to stop this vicious cycle. All the CWC members were recently transferred but their replacements are no better and the cycle is perpetuated.
In spite of this, each girl has a window of time, just a few precious weeks of access to a Freedom Firm social worker. Asha makes the most of every opportunity to counsel and develop positive relationships of trust with each girl. One of her toughest cases, Arpana*, was rescued three times, once by the police and twice by Freedom Firm. Arpana actively resisted Asha's attempts at friendship, refusing to join in making crafts and to listen to Asha's descriptions of a future life beyond prostitution. When Arpana's brothel keepers claimed her, the government rubber-stamped her return back to prostitution. After her second rescue, she responded angrily to Asha's overtures of friendship, saying, “This is the only work I can do, there is nothing else for me.”
When the brief window of opportunity closed again, and Arpana was released once again to her perpetrators, Asha was devastated. Staff at Freedom Firm grieved and were outraged. The CWC's refusal to protect Arpana only reinforced her belief that to struggle against her fate was completely hopeless. Corruption in systems meant to protect its citizens breeds fatalism. With fatality comes acceptance of evil and resignation of hope.
Often, persistence is the only thing that we can practice that will make any difference. Freedom Firm investigators found Arpana again in a brothel in Nagpur. She was rescued for the third time. When Asha approached her in the Government remand home, a transformation had clearly taken place. Arpana looked Asha in the eyes. All traces of hostility and defiance were gone. She said, “Didi (sister), this was the third time I was rescued, I think God must have a plan for my life.”
Asha explains it this way. “Many of the things we do, our work, ends up in failure. But our job is to work hard, and leave the results up to God.”
*name changed to protect identity