Freedom Firm’s first rescue in Allahabad really surprised us. We had been expecting to encounter significant opposition to the rescue and protection of minor girls. Instead after Kirti was rescued in January 2015, she remained in protective custody and the brothel keeper remained behind bars for more than three months. In some ways, we were lulled into a sense of comfort and confidence. Then, in April 2015 we learned that our confidence was premature.
It took over two months to accomplish the second rescue in Allahabad; and that in spite of having a letter in hand from the most senior police in the capital city. When the girls were finally rescued, we assumed the procedure would go along the lines of Kirti’s rescue. Instead, the girls were kept in the police station for 6 nights, in violation of well-established rules, and then released to relatives.
When our team returned for rescue in May 2015, we were sobered and ready. They responded quickly. Three girls were rescued but again kept in the police station. By this time, our legal team had identified a new local advocate who was willing to fight alongside us. He and his team approached the court repeatedly, over the course of a week, with application after application seeking to protect the girls. We wanted them released from the police station and put in a shelter home. We wanted an inquiry conducted into their family and history. When their medical results gave their age above 18, we wanted them retested.
As we fought day after day in the court, opposition formed as the protesters arrived from the red light area. They found advocates. In the court, they laughed at us, argued we should have no basis to speak, and even threatened our team. Five men followed our staff around Allahabad for five days. Back in the court, the Chief Judicial Magistrate must have got tired of having pressure from both sides, so he simply transferred the case to another judge. The new judge, a woman, was patient, understanding, and considerate of the girls.
Still, we worried she might be pressured to release them. One of our local advocates stood outside her office until she finished her order to ensure that the brothel keepers could not meet her without being seen. They didn’t show their faces and the judge ordered that the girls be sent to a shelter home. A panel of five people was called to make recommendations on the girls’ care and protection. There is more work to be done but we are happy to be fighting for these girls.
On May 2, 2016, the newspaper headlines announced what essentially resulted in the closure of the red-light area, Meerganj in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, after only one and a half years of Freedom Firm presence in the city.
Freedom Firm staff travel to towns and villages that have smaller red-light areas where there is trafficking activity. We are determined to go to these lesser-known places, to be able to intervene and to bring rescue to girls who no one else has found.
This October, Freedom Firm and One Day’s Wages together seek to raise $40,000. Rescue, Restoration and Justice are needed in Uttar Pradesh because of red-light areas operating in the region and the significant presence of minor girls in prostitution. Their exploitation takes place in every place imaginable: hotels, bars, massage parlors, petrol stations, temples, truck stops. Trafficked girls need to be located in areas of deep darkness and rescued.