Although restricted, prostitution is legal in India; but after police were given a tip about a “dance bar” in the Thane district near Shil Phata, India by the nonprofit organization, The Exodus Road, 57 women were rescued.
Of these 57, 22 were found hidden behind a false wall seven hours after the initial raid.
“After seven hours of processing the victims at the dance bar with police, the team began to hear noises coming from behind a wall. They investigated the noises and upon tearing down a portion of the wall, discovered 22 girls hidden in a cramped space, without fresh air, food, or water. When the team broke through the wall, many of the girls immediately fainted.”
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This video footage is from The Exodus Road, taken from the crime scene. This is the room these girls were stashed in, while police processed the initial victims. However, there are some other interesting points to note regarding this story:
- 18 of the 57 rescued were minors — aka: child sex trafficking
It should also be pointed out, that the police that the SX4 dance bar was located in, were in cahoots:
- “James Varghese, of the nonprofit Indian Rescue Mission, coordinated the case with the Mumbai police. His investigators had gathered evidence on the bar revealing underage workers, but previously planned raids had been tipped off three times before the successful raid on the 20th.”
- “When the Mumbai police raided SX4′, a local constable was found guarding the place. Three Thane officers, including the senior inspector of the Daighar police station, were suspended for their failure to stop illegal activities at the bar.”
Although making prostitution completely illegal would not completely stop local authorities from breaking the law like this, it would make it much more difficult for the sex trade to operate in plain view; as well as be a deterrent for customers.
While it’s great these women and girls have been rescued, this story doesn’t end as it should. The Harmony Foundation has kept an eye on the situation and have found the Mumbai police ill-equipped to deal with so many trafficking victims at one time:
“Since then, all the victims have been confined to two 10×10 rooms at the Daighar police station. They are not provided proper meals, and survive on occasional vada pavs given by cops.
“This is unacceptable. They are victims, and not the accused. This is no way to rehabilitate them,” said Dr Abraham Mathai, president of Harmony Foundation, which “coordinated” the raid with the Mumbai police after learning that minors were being forced to work in the bar.
According to the guidelines for handling such victims, the women should be sent to a state welfare home, from where they can be later sent to their families. But in this case, the victims were taken directly to the Daighar police station.
Deputy Police Commissioner Ashok Dudhe said that the police had tried to find a rehabilitation centre for the women, but none of the welfare homes in Mumbai or Thane had any room to accommodate them. “We had no option but to keep them at the police station,” he said. “We had informed a court about the situation, and now orders have been issued to shift them to a home in Nashik.”
While authorities make alternative arrangements, the women are forced to live in a pitiable condition. “They get vada pavs for lunch and dinner. On a couple of days, they didn’t even get that,” Dr Mathai said.
A volunteer from Harmony Foundation has been making rounds of the police station for the past six days to check on the women’s condition. “The two rooms they have been kept in have a lot of unused furniture. There is just enough space for them to sit. There are toilets, but the women have to clean them, the volunteer said. “The treatment they are getting is worse than their time in the bar.””
This story paints an accurate picture of human trafficking in the world. Stopping it isn’t a simple fix. A Like on Facebook, an anti-trafficking t-shirt and telling your friends about sex trafficking is certainly a step in the right direction, but you can clearly see that it’s going to take a lot more when so many cases involve police corruption, secret rooms, and multiple anti-trafficking nonprofits — and this story isn’t even over, yet…