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Worth the wait

On December 13th, our investigators saw Hajma in a brothel in Sangli, Maharashtra. She looked young, around 16 or 17 years old. We immediately brought the evidence to the police. Over the next seven weeks, our team continued searching for Hajma and notifying the police about her location. Yet both times we attempted to rescue her, the brothel was completely closed upon our arrival. This pattern made it clear – someone in the police department was warning the brothel about our plans.

The Assistant Police Inspector (API) wanted to rescue Hajma and instructed our team to meet her outside the office with evidence. On February 3rd, we identified Hajma at a brothel and called the API. She received permission from the Superintendent of Police and organized a reliable group for the rescue.

Hajma (right) shares her story with Freedom Firm social workers (left)
Hajma (right) shares her story with Freedom Firm social workers (left)

At 6:54 pm, we raided the brothel and found two young girls sitting on a bench next to the brothel keeper. One of the rooms was locked from the inside so the police knocked on the door. After a full minute, Hajma opened it. When police began questioning the brothel keeper about each girl, she produced documents and birth certificates that claimed the victims were 21, 23 and 26 years old. Though the police were hesitant because of the stated ages, our team reminded them that the raid was conducted under PITA (Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act), which requires police officers to rescue all victims regardless of their age. We determined the brothel keeper forged these documents when Hajma’s medical report later verified she is between 16 and 18 years old. Our legal team and a member of the Anti Human Trafficking Unit advocated for the police to arrest the brothel keeper and opposed her release.

Enjoying hot vada pav (Indian sandwiches)
Enjoying hot vada pav (Indian sandwiches)

After medical exams and COVID tests, the three victims were sent to a temporary shelter home. We hope the Child Welfare Committee will transfer them to a shelter home in Pune where our social workers can provide counseling, life skills and vocational training.

One week after they were rescued, the three survivors (left) enjoyed a snack together while waiting to see the judge.

The youngest survivor, Swati, shared her story with Catherine Raja, National Director. You can read it HERE.


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