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"I only came to give you tea." An interview with an investigator

With all our staff in lockdown as a result of Prime Minister Modi's reaction to the Coronavirus, we've taken the opportunity to interview one of our key investigators. It's a time of forced seclusion, withdrawal from the work, and a chance to reflect and process different experiences from this last year. Its a chance to share eye witness accounts of the reality inside the brothel, and what the girls face every day.

(Please Note: Our investigators are undercover. That means they pose as customers and pay marked bills to the brothel keepers in order to spend time alone with a girl. He will sit with a girl and ask her name and a bit about her background. He will try and identify her age. Then he makes an excuse and leaves the brothel. Their undercover work does not compromise the safety of the girl in question or the integrity of our investigator. The investigator wears an undercover camera for accountability AND to provide evidence to the police to instigate a raid and rescue.)

Q: What part of this job is the most difficult?

A:  Sometimes during the operation, we aren’t able to identify the thugs, the mafia who are present in the brothel.  There are so many men and boys all over the place, you don’t know who is the customer and who is working for the brothel.  So I have to be careful.

Q:  Were you trained to become an investigator?

A:  I have been part of several training programs organized by Freedom Firm.  Teamed with seasoned investigators I  have picked up technical, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  I have been working with Freedom Firm for over four years now, I have visited over 30 red-light areas and every time I try to learn something new and sharpen my investigative skills.

Q:  Is it easy to spot a minor girl?

A:  Not always. The brothel keepers are more careful with minor girls and some brothel keepers will not allow them to step out of the brothel. Sometimes you can tell from the girl’s face and body language that she is a minor.  You can also tell from her behavior if she is minor and if she has been recently trafficked. 

Q:  How do you feel when you see these girls?

A:  I feel very sad when I see them as most of them are struggling.  If they don’t get customers, they don’t get a single meal, some don’t even have money for a cup of tea. In one particular red light area one girl, every time she saw me, she would ask me for juice or tea. I would buy her something and then ask her what, no customers?   She would say no you come only. I would reply no, I only came to give you tea. And then she would tell me to buy her biscuits too. There are so many girls like this. No customers mean no food, or they eat junk food like samosas or bhajis.

Every girl is different.  In Pune, most of the girls are Bangladeshis, Nepalis, and Bengalis. In the North, most of the girls are from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.  In some places in Maharashtra, most of the girls are from South India.

Q:  What can you tell us about the inside of a brothel?

A:  Every brothel is different.  In most of the brothels in Budhwarpeth, Pune, customers are offered a room with a bed. But in the village it is different, there is no room but a tin shed and no beds, you are given a mat and a sheet.  The space is very dirty.  All condom packets and used condoms are just thrown all over the room.  Customers don’t care about how filthy the room is but just come for their 15/30 minutes of pleasure.

Q:  Tell us something about the customers

A:  You find all age groups here.  Mostly young college boys though. On one visit I saw a 16-year old boy who tried to cover his face with a mask. Some of them are so young and so scared but they still want to experience sex. I spoke to another boy who looked 19. He was talking to what he thought was a girl but was actually a transgender. I asked him why he was choosing a transgender, he refused to believe that the person he wanted to disappear with was a transgender. All his friends were laughing at him. He just couldn’t tell the difference.  So many groups of young boys come to the brothels. I have seen men in their sixties also visit brothels.

Q: What about your wife is she okay with this?

A:  Yes. She is supportive. She is a social worker and understands this line of work. 

Q:  How do you guard yourself from this line of work?

A:  I pray and ask the Almighty for help.

Q:  Do you think prostitution will ever end  and how can the public get more involved

       in stopping the trafficking of minors?

A:  It is tough and will be a big challenge. So many politicians are involved in this.  The government also knows about all the big red-light areas and small red-light areas but don't do anything.

Each person should have a heart to genuinely save these girls, especially the ones who have been forced into this line of work.  Most have sisters at home and should look at these girls in the same way and try to do something to stop these girls from getting exploited.  If we work together then we will be able to rescue more girls trapped in prostitution.


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