KOLKATA, INDIA – May 12, 2016
This week, police in Kolkata enlisted IJM’s help in rescuing three young women trafficked from Bangladesh and forced into prostitution in one of the city’s most congested red-light districts.
The women had been trapped in a two-story brothel on the corner of two narrow alleys. Thousands of people visit this red-light district every night, and, just across the street, a popular dance club bustles with local pimps. A Kolkata police unit specialized in combatting trafficking had learned of several women forced to sell themselves for sex in this brothel, and they called IJM Kolkata for assistance.
On Tuesday evening, the team entered the brothel. Trained social workers and police officers immediately brought the young women behind closed curtains to interview them in private.
One victim shared in detail how she was trafficked from her home in Bangladesh. When her younger sister fell sick, a man she knew offered to pay for medical treatment if the young woman took a good job in India. When they reached Kolkata, he instead coerced her into prostitution to pay back the money. The young woman said she was forced to have sex with dozens of customers every day and was never allowed to leave the building.
"She had a strong desire to come out because she’d experienced so much pain,” said IJM’s Dolphy Biswas, who coordinated the operation with police. "She pointed out the trafficker immediately, gave a statement, and was willing to act as the complainant in the case. This shows how much violence she went through and how much she wanted to get out.”
The second victim shared how a friend convinced her to visit Kolkata and instead sold her to the brothel; the third victim stated her ex-husband had left her there. In total, the team rescued three victims and arrested two suspects—one madam running the brothel and one trafficker. The three victims are estimated to be between 18 and 20 years old. Under Indian law, it’s a crime to bring girls under age 21 from foreign countries for the purpose of sex work.
The next day, IJM social workers accompanied the survivors to the court, where a judge ordered that they be placed in a trusted shelter home for necessary care. Police filed a report against the suspected abusers and will continue to investigate the case.
Cross-border trafficking is a pervasive crime. While it’s difficult to confirm how many victims are brought across the Bangladeshi border into India every year, the Bangladesh government and various NGOs estimate the number to be at least 10,000.
IJM has been working with authorities to safely rescue and restore victims of sex trafficking in Kolkata since 2006.