Rumi was studying in a school in Bangladesh when she was trafficked to India by one of her relatives. She thought she was going for a good job but instead was taken to Sangli, Maharashtra and sold to Maya, a brothel keeper.
Maya promised Rumi that if she worked for a few months, she would be sent home. Rumi realised that she had no other option and hoped that it would only be for a short time. Maya didn’t fulfill her promise, but in February 2015 Freedom Firm operatives found Rumi, and she was rescued from Sangli’s red-light district when she was still only 15 years old. Rumi was placed in a government shelter home in Sangli soon after her rescue. She was then transferred to a home in Mumbai to protect her from the proximity of her brothel keeper in Sangli. The Sangli Child Welfare Committee regularly sends minor girls to the government home in Mumbai to get them out of Sangli.
Before Rumi could testify in April 2016, Freedom Firm discovered that she was scheduled for repatriation to Bangladesh We had very little time to make sure that her testimony could be recorded before she left India. We worked alongside the Sangli police and the court, communicating the urgency to finish the trial. A special public prosecutor was appointed.
The District Government Pleader put the case on priority and ensured that all other legal arrangements were made. Continuous coordination between the legal team, the police and the public prosecutor enabled the prosecution to summon Rumi to testify.
It was a blow to our efforts when we heard that the judge was being transferred and another judge was to take his place. Fortunately, the new judge took up the case and called Rumi to testify within 48 hours. She testified well and narrated the story of her trafficking.
Unfortunately, there were discrepancies between her testimony in court and the statement taken by the police after her rescue. The defense seemed to have the edge, but after the testimony, the Public Prosecutor who was present in an in-camera proceeding assured our legal team that the case will still probably result in a conviction.
On 21st September, 2017 while we waited for the judgement to be pronounced, our Regional Director in Pune, Ashwin Rathod wrote this update: ‘The initial part of the judgement went well. The Public Prosecutor fought well during the final argument. The accused, her supporters and her lawyers who were present in court looked very troubled. The judge has convicted one accused in a trafficking case about two months ago, and so we are hoping for a conviction’.
On 22nd September the judgement was pronounced. Maya was sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment! We rejoiced alongside Rumi as we heard the news. A post-integration follow up on Rumi revealed that she is safe at home but is hoping to learn some vocational skills to make a living and support her family.