On July 4th, 2019, a team consisting of JVI, local partner Adithi, and police officials rescued 11 female victims, including four minors, from sex trafficking in Bettiah, Bihar. In addition, 15 accused were arrested (traffickers and customers) and six brothels were closed.
This was a groundbreaking rescue operation leading to the disruption of sex trafficking in a high prevalence area in northern India.
JVI and Adithi worked closely with police, including female constables, independent witnesses and additional police officers from the Quick Response Unit. They arrived at the red-light area at 7 pm, blocking off potential exit routes. The team found the victims in filthy, extremely unhygienic living conditions. The rescue operation lasted nearly five hours as police seized evidence and made multiple arrests.
One victim, Kamya*, grew up in the red-light district in Bettiah, where many other young girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Kamya said she was forced to service 5-6 clients every day for which she did not receive any money and was only given some food and clothes. She recalled being only five years old when her sister was left with a brothel madam and was never seen again. Young girls like Kamya and her sister are often lured into this business with the promise of well-paying jobs and over time are groomed and eventually forced into sexual exploitation.
Sealing of 6 brothels by officers
Following the raid, the survivors and accused were transported to the police station. The survivors gave their initial statements, were provided with professional counseling, and then were transported to the hospital for medical exams. A police complaint was lodged against the accused under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act and Juvenile Justice Act.
At the station, a JVI sponsored lawyer who was part of the rescue team addressed members of the media and stated: “By arresting the customers, not only are we delivering justice to the victims but also deterring footfall in these brothels reducing demand for such victims.”
JVI and partner Adithi will continue to work for the welfare of the survivors and reunite them with their families where appropriate. Over the next two years, staff will work closely with each victim to ensure they have access to education and other resources to start a new life filled with hope, dignity and respect.
The following week, residents of Bettiah took to the streets demanding the closure of all of the brothels in the area. The arrest of traffickers and customers during the raid highlighted the fact that no one is above the law. Locals were encouraged by the rescue operations and are now taking initiative to bring such crimes to a complete halt.
*named changed to protect privacy