Child marriage is a practice still prevalent in rural parts of India. Girls from poorer low caste families, with little to no education are more likely to get married at a younger age. It is not merely a violation of child rights, but it has a detrimental impact on physical growth, health, emotional development and education opportunities.
At the age of 15, Sejal* was taken out of school and married off by her parents. Soon after she began living with her husband, Sejal was physically and verbally abused, prompting her to leave. However, without proper education or skills, work was hard to come by and Sejal found herself in a desperate situation. She was approached by a lady in her village who persuaded her to become a commercial sex worker in a nearby brothel. With no other alternative, Sejal took the job and entered the sex trade as a minor in the Baruipur, West Bengal red-light area.
At 15 years old, Sejal entered the brothel very naive to the way things work. She quickly learned that her brothel owners were in complete control and she had no rights. Sejal lived in the brothel with two other minors girls. Like Sejal, they too were married at a young age (one at 11 years old) and both had abusive spouses. They shared similar stories of how they struggled to find work after leaving their spouses. They had no education or skills.
All three girls were forced to work for 12 hours per day, sexually engaging with 4-5 customers per day. They were mistreated and abused. The brothel owners charged them rent and kept half of their daily earnings.
On September 27th, 2019, JVI and NGO partner Freedom Firm coordinated with local police authorities to conduct a rescue intervention in which all three girls were rescued. Police officials apprehended two brothel owners and one customer.
The rescued survivors were removed from the brothels immediately and were taken to Baruipur Police Station where they received professional counseling and recorded their initial statements. The three accused persons were taken into police custody while JVI lawyers assisted police officials in filing the FIR (First Information Report) asserting violations under the Indian Penal Code, Juvenile Justice Act, Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) and the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO). The survivors were taken to a nearby hospital for a general medical screening after which the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) passed orders to transfer the survivors to shelter homes.
Over the next 24 months, JVI will ensure these survivors receive professional counseling and opportunities for education and skills training.
JVI lawyers will also follow up with the appropriate authorities to ensure each victim receives rehabilitative compensation from the government and that the traffickers are held accountable.
* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the victim.