Exploited for ₹100, Police rescue 17-year-old

Turbhe District located in North Bombay is notorious for its high crime rates, widespread drug use and red-light area. The level of crime in this area is such that police dread being stationed in the district. The slum areas in this district are amongst the poorest in Bombay.

On Wednesday 30 May, the local police received information from IJM Mumbai that a young girl was trapped in a brothel in the slums of Turbhe. Sex with this girl was being sold for no more than ₹100. The price customers pay for sex is directly proportionate to the wealth of the neighbouring area. The price of this girl’s pain was the equivalent of a bag of sweets, or a 30-minute rickshaw ride.

Late afternoon, following a monsoon downpour, a rescue team entered the muddy slum area in which the young girl was being forced into commercial sexual exploitation. Passing rows and rows of ‘chawls’, the team entered the tin roofed one room accommodation in which the girl was trapped. The room was filthy with a bed hidden only by a thin curtain. The female pimp was arrested on the spot while the young girl spoke to social workers about her captivity.

Only 17 years old at the time of the rescue operation, the victim came from Bangladesh. She had married young and had been abandoned by her husband. Living with her family in a bamboo hut with no electricity and raising a one-year old baby boy, she travelled daily to the nearby town to work as a domestic helper. The family she worked for paid her ₹4,000 a month. Every day she would take clothes down to the lake in the town to wash for the family who employed her. It was at this lake that a woman befriended her. Gradually over time this woman became her friend and won her trust. This woman told her of a job opportunity in the garment industry in a nearby city where she would be paid triple her monthly salary.

The promise of a well-paid job gave her hopes and dreams for her son and younger siblings. She agreed to take the job and to travel to the nearby city. During the journey she was tricked and trafficked by the woman who had befriended her. Arriving in the slums of Turbhe in Bombay, her trafficker disappeared, and she was left confused and unable to speak the local language.

A woman approached the victim and offered her work as a domestic help. With no money and no way to get back to Bangladesh she agreed to take the job. For two months she worked for this family, believing that she was earning and saving money.

After two months however the woman who had given her employment forced her to have sex with customers. Coercing her to service up to nine men a day for as little as ₹100 per customer. She was trapped, with no way out, and far from her home and her son.

Following the rescue operation of 30 May, she has been placed in a government shelter home for crisis care and rehabilitation. She is learning tailoring and believes it will improve her family’s prospects when returns home. She has been given the nickname ‘smiley’ because she is so happy to have been rescued from the misery that she was in. Lawyers and social workers are working hard for her to be repatriated to Bangladesh.