KOLKATA, INDIA – On December 10 (World Human Rights Day), IJM’s team in Kolkata successfully worked with local authorities to rescue a 16-year-old girl from sex trafficking and arrest three suspects who had exploited her.
This was the first time IJM worked with police in New Town, which is a planned, family-friendly community just outside Kolkata. The suspects had rented a posh apartment there to use as a secretive brothel for private customers. IJM learned this 16-year-old girl had come from a broken family and was looking for work when the traffickers lured her into the sex trade.
“She was being forced into prostitution for the last two years,” shares Saji Philip, IJM’s director of operations in Kolkata. “Over the last eight to 10 months, she was being groomed by one of the accused to travel to distant cities for prostitution.”
IJM studies in Kolkata confirm this trend: Fewer and fewer minor girls are being sold for sex in traditional brothels and red-light districts, but many traffickers are now exploiting children and teens in unsuspecting homes and apartments. Victims are controlled through shame or violence and are moved frequently to avoid detection.
Under this heavy control, Philip adds, “once the girls are in, it gets difficult for them to find an exit route. They continue to get exploited.”
Technology has also helped traffickers keep these networks secret. Philip explains, “Traffickers use social media networks to contact both customers and minors. Social media helps them show photos to clients and work in a clandestine manner.”
In this case, the rescued girl was immediately brought to a police station to give her testimony safely, then went for a medical check-up and to a short-term aftercare home to rest.
Police have filed charges against the three suspects under India’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws. If convicted, they could face 10 years in jail. Officers will continue to investigate other potential traffickers and victims connected to these suspects, as they hope to break down the networks exploiting girls in secret across Kolkata.