From 2012 to 2015 Freedom Firm enjoyed government favor and unrestricted access to survivors of sex trafficking at Karuna Home, a government-run shelter home. Our social workers provided counseling, job training, and educational classes. In March 2015, however, all that changed. The Commissioner of the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) wrote a letter to Freedom Firm stating that our services at the home were no longer needed, as they had recruited staff to provide care to the rescued girls. This came after our complaint against the acting probation officer who repeatedly released the girls soon after their rescue, often straight back into the arms of their brothel keepers. In fact, brothel keepers and traffickers were posing as parents and producing fake birth certificates and other illegal documents as well as substantial bribes to secure the release of the girls. The very system designed to protect the girls was actually exploiting them again! Our legal staff wrote back to the commissioner expressing that this response would slow down our ongoing work at the home, as most of the girls in the home were rescued by Freedom Firm. The doors remained closed for the past five years, until last week.
Seema, Freedom Firm staff recollects the previous Deputy Commissioner’s attitude. "Every time we met him, he told us to come later or another day." Freedom Firm wrote several letters and attempted to meet officials numerous times, to no avail. Karuna’s doors were shut and locked against Freedom Firm.
Finally, the State transferred the Deputy Commissioner in early 2019 and a new Deputy Commissioner took his place. When our staff met him on 21st August they assumed they would be turned down once again. They were pleasantly surprised as he was receptive and impressed with Freedom Firm’s long track record of work with survivors of sex trafficking in Maharashtra. He immediately paved the way for our social workers to meet his superior, the Commissioner of the DWCD. He immediately signed the letter and gave Freedom Firm permission to work in all homes in Maharashtra.
Freedom Firm will restart work in Karuna Home, Nagpur, and in five other districts of Maharashtra: Satara, Pune, Baramati, Karad, and Aurangabad. We celebrate this phenomenal breakthrough!