Though Sangeeta* was about 16-17-years old she claimed she was. When she was rescued from the brothel on the 30th of May 2011, Sangeeta was not ready to leave. She was wearing a short mini-skirt suggesting she was accustomed to brothel life and had been there for a long time. She claimed to like the work she did and insisted she was there of her own free will.
According to Sangeeta's first version of her story, she was married before she came to the red-light-area and had a small son. After losing her husband to cancer, financial need compelled her to leave her son with her mother and move to Pune to work in a brothel. The brothel-keeper lets her keep half of her earnings. In relating her story, Sangeeta became more and more irate with Freedom Firm staff, blaming them for not allowing her to collect her earnings before leaving the brothel. She said that the brothel keeper owed her a great deal of money.
The next time social workers were able to talk to Sangeeta, she was in a better frame of mind, and she related the real story that brought her to the brothels. She was trafficked by her neighbor known as Majida. Sangeeta also suspects her older sister and brother-in-law to be involved. Her father left their family to marry another woman many years ago, leaving her mother destitute. Sangeeta used to work petty jobs to contribute to the family until her neighbor Majida offered her a job in the city and brought her to Pune. She tried to escape many times but was always caught and beaten up. On one occasion, the police helped the brothel keeper find her.
Sangeeta worked as a prostitute for five years and was promised by the brothel-keeper that when five years were over, she would be free to go home. The brothel keeper was ‘saving’ part of Sangeeta's income which was to be claimed at the completion of five years. Apparently, the five years were almost up and she was supposed to be returning to West Bengal a week later when the raid took place and she was rescued.
Sangeeta was very frustrated with the whole thing. She didn't get her money and was worried about her younger sister. The trafficker was still roaming loose in their locality and Sangeeta knew that there was every possibility that her younger sister might also end up like her. She requested that Freedom Firm do something to protect her sister and secure the money that she is owed.
A few months after rescue, Sangeeta managed to collect some of the money that she was owed and was happy to return home to her mother. However, Sangeeta's story proves the importance of follow-up visits after rescue since many women, including Sangeeta, discover that more danger awaits them at home.
During a home visit two years after rescue, social workers found Sangeeta married and expecting a baby. Unfortunately, the social workers also recognized warning signs when told by relatives that Sangeeta was not allowed to stay in touch with anyone because her husband was a jealous, suspicious man and did not allow Sangeeta to speak with anyone on the phone.
Sangeeta called Rinku, a Freedom Firm social worker, whenever she had the chance. She related the news of her baby's birth and that she was not happy with her marriage.
A few months later, Sangeeta called to say that her husband and his family was abusing her. They took all her jewelry and other belongings away. Recently, her husband had tried to burn her. She escaped from her husband's house with her little daughter and took refuge with her sister. He then called every day threatening to kill Sangeeta and her sister.
Sangeeta's husband was imprisoned for domestic violence not long after. Sangeeta left her daughter with her sister and went to work in a bag factory in 2015. She said that she shared a room with other women working at the same place and earned decent money. Sangeeta was unwilling to tell the social worker the name of the factory but gave details of the area. There is a large, well-known red-light district nearby, and it is possible that Sangeeta has returned to the brothels. Hopefully, with support from social workers, Sangeeta can be encouraged to seek a safer situation for herself.
*name changed to protect identity