In February, 2017 Freedom Firm investigators and local police rescued Poonam* from Nagpur’s Ganga Jamuna red-light area. She was placed in a government shelter home, and the brothel keeper was sent to jail. An age verification test was done that established Poonam as a minor.
In March, our social workers visited Poonam’s house in Rajasthan to conduct a home inquiry. They found her mother, her uncle and her sister at home. When they asked about Poonam her uncle infuriated by our questioning responded by saying, “Whatever you do for Poonam, remember that I can have her released from the shelter home in 2 days!” It was evident that Poonam’s family was complicit in her trafficking.
Making good on his threat, in April, Poonam was released to her relatives. Not long after that, she was seen in the red-light area by Freedom Firm’s investigators. In the next four months, our attempts to rescue her were met by several roadblocks including police unavailability and two tip-offs while attempting rescue operations.
On 14th September, our investigators ‘engaged’ Poonam and a rescue operation was planned with the assistance of the local police. She was rescued and is again in the government shelter home. This time around we can prove that releasing her to her relatives is not a safe option. Sadly, it occasionally takes two rescues and sometimes even three to convince government authorities that releasing a girl to her family is the same as giving her back to her traffickers.
*Name changed to protect identity