Last year, Meerganj's red-light area was closed for business because of Freedom Firm's insistent work in Allahabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh (the largest state in India).
May 2, 2016, the newspaper announced the closure of the red-light area, Meerganj, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. The headline read: Biggest raid in Allahabad's red-light area: Police find 125 women in 5-hour long search operation to bust sex trade. After only one and a half years of Freedom Firm presence in this city, we found ourselves with some surprising results. Over the course of that time, Freedom Firm conducted numerous investigations and gathered information about minor girls in prostitution.
On multiple occasions, we approached the police to conduct rescue operations. We experienced the full range of responses, from active cooperation to downright hostility and even threats to our staff. On 5 occasions the police cooperated and 10 minor girls and young women were rescued (one girl was rescued twice). Five First Information Report's (FIR's) were filed and 8 brothel keepers and customers arrested.
Was this enough to cause the police to close down the entire red-light area? For several decades this red-light area thrived as a place of prostitution; Freedom Firm was not the first organization to rescue girls and arrest traffickers, why did the police act so decisively this time?
Part of the answer probably lies in a PIL filed by a local advocate, asking the administration to relocate the red-light area from Meerganj to a place outside the city. Perhaps the answer lies more in the pressure applied by Freedom Firm over the course of the preceding 18 months.
We are grateful that Allahabad's red-light area is closed for business. Women and girls are not being exploited like they were before. It may not have happened the way we expected, but we are glad for this incredible change in Allahabad.