Laxmi is from West Bengal, in the North-East of India. When she was twelve years old, her mother died. Her father was chronically ill and needed medicine so Laxmi went to Calcutta to try and find work. She looked for work all over but couldn’t find any. It was raining very heavily and she sat down in a train station despondent and soaking wet. There was a lady behind her at the station. She approached Laxmi and asked her if she was OK. Laxmi explained her situation and told her she couldn’t find any work. The lady then offered Laxmi a job sewing saris for 500 rupees a day. Laxmi was over the moon – she would have been happy to work for 500rs a month!
The lady told her to follow her so Laxmi went with her to a small roadside shop. The lady bought her some sweets and then disappeared, instructing Laxmi to wait for her there. The lady was gone for a long long time but Laxmi didn’t feel like she could leave as she knew she couldn’t pay for the sweets. The man in the shop gave her a cup of chai to drink. Eventually, the lady came back and took her to the train station. While they were on the platform heading towards a train, Laxmi suddenly felt very faint and passed out.
When she awoke she was on the train. She slipped in and out of consciousness. They were on the train for a very long time. They went right across the North of India. Laxmi felt like it was only a short time because she was semi-conscious from the drug she’d been given in her chai. They ended up in a faraway city at a big house where there were lots of pretty girls. The lady who had brought Laxmi talked to another lady who seemed to own the place and money was exchanged. One girl sitting there tried to warn Laxmi that she was being sold but Laxmi could do nothing about it. She was very scared by this point. The lady who had brought her left. When Laxmi tried to leave to go home she was stopped by the brothel keeper and told that they had paid a lot of money for her and that she owed them thousands of rupees and would have to have sex with customers until she had paid off the debt.
She was in a brothel in Gujarat for one year and tried to run away often. She was transferred to a brothel in Mumbai. She planned on running away again but witnessed a brothel-keeper bribing a police officer and decided against it. Manju suffered beatings, burns and was deprived of food by the brothel keeper.
Occasionally the police would raid the brothel and the brothel-keeper would hide Laxmi under the water tank on the roof until they were gone. They would be very angry with Laxmi when this would happen, saying it was her fault for being so young – that was why they were being raided. She was moved to another brothel. Eventually, after two years a man came to the brothel who wore shoes that made Laxmi think he was a policeman. She shouted to him to help her and he told her not to be afraid – that he was her brother. She retorted that if he was her brother, he would have come to help her sooner! Shortly afterward, on April 11, 2001, the police and Greg working with an International Justice Mission team (IJM) raided the brothel and rescued Laxmi. Manju was 15-years old. She calls Greg her big brother.
After rescue, she was admitted to various government homes for a number of years. She said that is has been very hard for her to forgive the men that abused her, that she wanted to stab them, but that when she became a Christian she softened a bit. God healed her of mouth cancer which made her faith a lot stronger. She now works with Salvation Army in the red light district in Mumbai as a social worker. She keeps an eye out for other minor girls. She has a passion for helping others who are trapped in the same situation she was in five years ago. Freedom Firm has offered her a job as a peer counselor in our rehabilitation home in Ooty that opens in September.