Mina’s* rescue came as a breakthrough in an area where our investigation team encountered numerous pitfalls in the last nine months. Operating successfully was becoming more challenging, partly due to fewer minor girls in the area and partly because one of our investigators was caught and beaten on the terrace of a brothel.
Taken immediately to the police station to record their statements, we heard the usual information that girls give when they are rescued. Mina said that she was a major, was willingly prostituting, and was not coerced by anyone into the trade. We knew that this was false as her appearance revealed that she was much younger. We hoped that in the ensuing days she would be willing to share details of her life with our staff.
Our caseworkers visited Mina the day after she was rescued. Mina opened up to our staff revealing details of her past and fresh memories of the trauma inflicted on her:
"My parents reside and work at Uttar Pradesh - the largest state in India. My father hoped that I would study after I finished class 10, but I had no inclination to study. So, my father helped me find a job at a private limited company dealing with electronics. I worked there for a month. On May 26th, I was walking back home when a car pulled up in front of me. Two men, a lady, and the driver asked me directions. As I began telling them, they began to threaten me and told me to sit in the car. I hurriedly got into the car, began to panic, and wondered what was happening to me. I was jolted back into reality when I heard my phone ringing. I answered the call, it was my father. The kidnappers grabbed the phone from my hand and threw it out of the window. The kidnappers knew my father, knew where he worked, and also knew the school where my brother was studying. Who were these people and why were they taking me away?
We reached a place late at night but I didn't know where I was. I was kept in a room for a month and a half. I attempted to run away from there several times. On one attempt I escaped and came to the railway station to catch a train to go back home. I hastily decided that I would make a living on my own and hopped onto a train. I had no money and I was getting hungry. As I looked anxiously around, a lady named Madhu began to speak to me. I shared my story with her and she offered to help me find a job. She bought me to the Pune red-light district and sold me to Bali, the brothel keeper. At first, I refused to work there but then I thought that I would save enough money and run away. Bali never gave me money but gave me food and clothes in exchange for having sex with customers. I completely believed her when she said that if I provided details of my past, my real name, and age to anyone, I would be sent to a brothel in another country."
Mina is now at a short-stay home for rescued women. Our social workers visit her every week to follow-up on her case and provide counseling as she deals with the trauma of the past few months and prepares to be reunited with her family.
*name changed to protect identity