“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” −Martin Luther King
After Kalya* was rescued from the brothels in 2009, she was immediately restored to her family and Freedom Firm lost contact with her. When her case came to court in 2011, our social workers were committed to finding her.
Armed with an address from the police and a connection in West Bengal (another rescued girl’s father) Kalya was found. Within weeks, she testified in Pune. Seeing Kalya at court, the accused panicked and admitted herself into a local hospital, a ploy to delay the court proceedings. This went on for weeks until finally, the judge intervened. The defendant then tried using political sway, but the case resulted in a conviction.
We look back at Kalya's story and the challenges of her rescue. The police and our teams didn’t have transport and had to hire autos. Time was precious. Reaching the red-light-district, our operatives were not allowed into the brothels. There had been a tip-off. The girls we identified for rescue had been pulled off the streets.
We caught the brothel keeper lingering nearby and were able to raid the building. Inside, breaking through a door to the roof, the targeted girls were found and finally taken into custody. Although the police and Freedom Firm tried to convince them to give an accurate statement, the girls refused to cooperate. Eventually, our investigator, who had operated as a customer, convinced Kalya and she bravely chose freedom. Later, at the remand home, the other girls segregated Kalya to punish her.
As a part of the same operation, we had targeted another minor girl, Swetha, who was not found in the brothel. A picture was shown to the brothel keeper, but she refused to cooperate. She was taken to the S.S. Branch and the police filed an FIR.
Kalya's rescue, like many others, was characterized by factors that spun out of control, and then the long, exasperating waiting period and process for justice. Finally, the brothel keeper was convicted, only for the conviction to be overturned, and the accused granted bail. We immediately appealed bail and the status of the case now is pending in the High Court. The hunt for justice demands a dogged pursuit and persistence. The good news? Kalya married a good man, and she is safe.
Cases continue, justice remains difficult to attain, but the laws are good. In 2012, other girls testified and they will continue to do so in 2013. One of Freedom Firm's priorities is to secure convictions. This is the message that needs to be heard: those in our societies, profiting from the exploitation of minor girls in India, will be found and brought to justice.
*name changed to protect identity