Updated: Jul 30
On July 16th, local police and the Freedom Firm team raided Cute Arts Beauty Parlor and rescued 2 minor girls, Neenu and Riya and one major, Tanu. The police also arrested 2 men Varun (34 years old) and Karun (30) for running a brothel disguised as a beauty parlor.
After their rescue, Neena and Riya shared their stories.
The Girls Both girls live with siblings and without parents in one of the poorer parts of Barrackpore, making them highly at risk for trafficking. Riya is 14 years old and attending 9th grade online because of the Covid-19 lockdown. Her mother is a single parent who works as a domestic helper in Bangalore and earns a little over Rs 6000 ($80) a month.
Neenu is 17 years old and taking 10th grade virtually as well. Her mother is a single parent who also works as a domestic helper in Banglore and earns between Rs 18,000 to 20,000 ($242 to $269) a month. In August 2020, Neenu eloped with a 19 year old boy. Their marriage barely lasted 6 months, so Neenu returned home and resumed her studies. After three months of beautician training in a local beauty parlor, Neenu was ready to join a bigger parlor where she would earn more. The owner of the local parlor directed her to Varun, who owned Cute Arts Beauty Parlor in New Barrackpore.
Neenu and Riya are friends and went to Cute Arts Beauty Parlor hoping to get jobs as beauticians. Varun hired them on April 21st, 2021 and initially paid them between Rs 50-100 ($0.67-$1.34) to offer head, back and leg massages to both men and women. A few weeks later, Varun offered to pay them Rs 500 - 700 ($6.72 -$9.40) to give erotic massages to male customers. The girls were desperate to earn money and they agreed to start servicing customers.
Like thousands of parlors around India, the Cute Arts Beauty Parlor was actually a front for prostitution. Both families knew what their daughters were subjected to in the parlor, but they welcomed the additional money. However, after the girls were rescued, each mother blamed their daughter's friend for luring their innocent daughter into prostitution.
After the rescue operation, the girls recorded their statements at the police station. Police filed a First Information Report (FIR). Police released Tanu shortly after her statement was recorded, since she is major. Freedom Firm social workers accompanied Riya and Neenu first to the hospital for their medical tests and then finally to a shelter home for women. Once the Child Welfare Committee grants permission, Freedom Firm staff will start counseling and life skills sessions with Riya and Neenu.
Varun and Karun are in police custody. They have been charged with 366A/370/370A/372/373/34 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 4/5/6/7/9 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 and Section 17 read with section 4 of POCSO Act. Our team is monitoring the case closely.
(all names changed)