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June - July 2009
‘Mamma’ for unfortunate minors
Triveni Acharya’s Rescue Foundation - secured abode for girls saved from red light areas of India’s Metropolis.The inmates call her Mata Annapurna, Mother Mary and compare her with Mother Teresa
The Police and investigation agencies can give maximum account of the underworld, extortion, drug trafficking, gambling and other nefarious – unlawful activities and if willing, they can burst all those rackets. But the flesh trade can be considered as the area of little reach. Even one can challenge their knowledge of what, where, how, why and who in the widespread network, not only in India, but also neighboring countries and, since a decade or so, overseas too. It is well-known that the Kamathipura, Peela house etc Red light areas developed more than couple of centuries ago because of the sailors from Britain and other European countries. Whenever they landed in Mumbai, they often rushed to this area. Ofcourse the Kothas, Mujarawalis in different cities, Devdasis in the South and poverty in the interiors of the country contributed to its development. Lately, involvement of underworld and the law enforcement officers themselves have exacerbated the situation.
Dense urbanization of Mumbai and poverty in villages of several provinces of India brought in forced and voluntary prostitution too. Now it is not limited to a patch of area near Grant road and Mumbai central railway stations of the city. It is present in posh flats of Colaba, Santa Cruz, Nepean sea road as well as slums of Bhandup, Dharavi and on the Sea shores of Marine Drive, Girgaum chowpatty, Juhu, streets of business district Fort and streets nearby suburban railway stations. The downfall of Soviet Union brought almost starvation in countries like Ukraine, Armenia, and Azarbaijan etc. Hundreds of women from those countries rushed to Mumbai and other Indian cities for prostitution as they can earn more because of attraction of fair skin in this country.
The modus operandi of the Indian traffickers has always remained a kind of open secret as whatever they reveal (if caught by police) is well-known. Hardly anybody can witness them during their operations. The law is against forced prostitution and prostitution by minors. Yes, police do conduct raids and save minors and those who are sent to that hell because of their innocence or disadvantage of poverty, need for money etc. As the network is widespread in such a manner that a separate police force to deal with this kind of crimes is necessary; but that is not possible with the State’s limited resources. Consequently some social activism developed during last several decades.Vinod Gupta, G.R.Khairnaar, Mala Naidu and other social workers did their best to save minor girls and those who are forced in prostitution. But slowly and steadily this activity has become well-organised.
A silent worker Baal Krishna Acharya made it an organized activity by establishing a fool proof NGO Maity Nepal around year 1999. After a few years it was named Rescue Foundation. It has its own premises at Poisar in northern suburbs of Mumbai, nearby Palghar and Pune. Mr. Acharya met with an accident a few years back and died. Now his wife, ex journalist Triveni Acharya heads the institution. It also serves as remand home for women.
Mamma, as Triveni is fondly called by the girls- inmates of the Foundation, says;
“We have saved more than 2000 women including minor girls in absolutely legal manner. After rescue operation and legal formalities and psychological counseling the real rehabilitation takes place. We ask them whether they are willing to go back to their homes. If they say ‘yes’ we then check the possibility and safety at their native place. Our volunteers go along with them to their homes. After that we keep checking how they are for 2-3 years. If they unable to go back to their homes, we keep them at one of the three premise of Rescue Foundation and teach them skills to make them able to earn their livelihood. They feel absolutely re energized and fresh within a few months. One of the rescued girls works at the foundation’s office as she is unwilling to go home or get married. There are socially idealistic young men in our society who are willing to get married to these unfortunate girls. We teach them household chores and family discipline to get settled in family life. After every 3-4 years we conduct marriages of five to ten willing girls collectively.”
“These group marriages- ‘Samuhik Vivaaha’ is really an affectionate and emotional affair. Bridegrooms are told everything clearly and they have to give promise that they will never refer to their past and caste of the brides. Many boys from educated and affluent families join for ‘saptapadi’ ritual with our girls. Barring couple of instances all the marriages are successful. Proper kanyadaan is done by donor families.’Bidai’ (Sending the girl to in-law’s home)is done in appropriate manner. Everything for household is given to the bride. After marriages, they do come to me as this is their mother’s home-‘maika’. We do everything legally”, says Mamma Triveni with tears in her eyes.
As she narrates the journey of an unfortunate girl towards the hell known as red light area she is full of anguish. She says; “One can’t imagine the cruelty of the traffickers and their network, judgment and perfection in their job. The girls go through torture, torment, misery everything. Their life becomes a nightmare. Girls as young as 10 years and even less than that. Smaller the age and fresher the arrival fetches more price in the market. As soon as they come to the market, they are rushed to as many customers as possible. Because that is the right time to earn maximum money. They suffer such physical and mental cruelty that when we rescue them and send them to a doctor, their vagina gets five to ten stitches and mentally they are almost insane. It becomes a big ordeal to bring them psychologically and physically to proper stature.”
She continues; “Traffickers use different methods to induce or force girls into prostitution. Kidnapping, luring minor girls with sweets, chocolates etc, taking advantage of need for money and so many other ways. In some cases a trafficking agent or pimp buys the girl outright or provides a loan called ‘debt bond’ to the family that the girl must then pay off through prostitution. It usually takes years for girl to earn enough money to buy her freedom and by then she gets addicted to prostitution or she doesn’t have any option open in society or may be infected with AIDS/HIV or other diseases.”
Such disappointed girls/women want to come out of that hell. But they think what they will do in society as they may be unwanted at home and they don’t have any skill or education to survive in society. Even protection from anti-social elements is necessary. If they want to go home at some remote place, who will arrange for safe journey to that place? Police can save them from clutches of pimps and brothel keepers. But who can take care of absolutely secured life? Yes,there are NGOs. But hardly any one of them is fully equipped with systematic network of vigilance, rehabilitation, training, and marriage future arrangements and legal framework.”
How do they lure and push the girls in flesh trade?
Triveni says that “Apart from chocolates for minor girls and money-attractive better life in cities to lure grown up girls, pimps use so many other tactics to use the girls for flesh trade. To show the minor girls as grown ups to police and other agencies and to make them more attractive for clients, brothel keepers give them heavy doses of hormones. Such cases were detected at Pune, Delhi and Mumbai (Rescue foundation has branch at Pune). They are given combination of estrogen and testosterone and other such drugs having heavy side effects. Such hormones are consumed mostly by transvestites. The combination available as ‘Mixogen’ and other brand names affects uterus in form of fibroids.”
She elaborates; “Pune brothels have strong nexus with Andhra traffickers. Hundreds of girls between 10 and 13 from 25 talukas of 3 districts- Cudappah, Ananthpur and Chittor -are being sold for Rs 30,000 to Rs70, 000. If they are from certain tribes like Lambda for their beauty, they earn highest price around 70,000 to 80,000. Such girls are also given hormones and steroids. In year 2007, 122 such girls were rescued from Pune brothels.
The Organization: Rescue Foundation has emerged as a leading and powerful voice advocating the cause of trafficked women/girls in India. Over 1000s of girls have been rescued by the Rescue Foundation, most of them minors, from the clutches of the flesh traffickers in various parts of India. Many girls have been rehabilitated with an alternative livelihood into mainstream society. The Foundation got fifteen of its girls happily married with the consent of boys’ family so far. Today, their work has grown to such an extent that not only from India but people from distant countries have come forward to support their cause.
Introduction to Trafficking: Somewhere a girl is forced to have sex for money. A major part of that money goes into the pocket of some anti-social element. Some are kidnapped from Nepal and enslaved in Mumbai brothels. In some cases, trafficker or pimp buys the girl outright or provides a loan called a “debt bond” to the family of the girl who has to pay off through prostitution. It usually takes years for the girl to earn enough money to buy her freedom, and by then she might get infected with AIDS/HIV or some another sexual disease. In some cases, a trafficking agent promises a girl a good job in another country. There, her passport is taken, and she is forced to work as a prostitute. Some girls are kidnapped and taken to another country. Even if she does escape, she cannot return home because of social stigma and questions of citizenship. Without documentation, she is considered stateless. In some cases, the trafficker actually marries the girl in her home town under pretext of a better, prosperous life and sells her to brothel.
Unfortunately, the spread of AIDS has not discouraged the sex industry’s growth. Instead it has led traffickers to seek even younger girls, who are likely to be disease–free. Some of these girls will die of AIDS and other communicable diseases or commit suicide. T
Victims are often in the country illegally; and therefore afraid that if they go to authorities to make a complaint or to seek protection they will be imprisoned or deported. In most cases, the victim does not know the language of the country to which they are brought. They have no money to live or let alone pay for return ticket home. Sometime, the trafficked person forms an emotional attachment to the trafficker and finds it difficult to recognize that the trafficker is an exploiter. Rescue Foundation’s staff members visit the brothels posing as clients, approach one of the girls, win her confidence and counsel her to co-operate with them during raid. Once they identify a minor girl in a brothel, they conduct a raid with the help of police. Apart from minor girls(prohibited by law), major girls (keen to get rid of that hell) are also rescued by them.
The Foundation’s president Mrs. Triveni Acharya herself leads the raid along with the probation officer. Immediately after the raid, the girls/women have to be counselled and transferred to Rescue Foundation’s protective home under court’s order. The Foundation’s legal department employs full time lawyers and prevention officers. They are involved in filing legal complaints against the traffickers & brothel keepers. They facilitate attendance of victims in the courts and arrange mock trials so that the victims are aware of court procedure.
The Foundation has a scheme of training them for jobs-related occupations like tailoring, computer, yoga, knitting, cooking, craft, etc. and teaching them basic Hindi and English.
Health care is provided for all inmates. abortion, deliveries and serious illnesses. The cost of medical care is born by the Foundation.
The staff maintains detailed records including addresses, names, family contacts, rescue, health, training, legal procedure, repartition and counseling of the girls.
The Fondation has also established a Recovery care centre for HIV positive rescued girls. The recovery care centre has a special consultation and medicinal facilities for HIV patients and provides intricate psychological counseling.
Awards: The Foundation’s president Triveni Acharya was bestowed with prestigious ‘woman of peace’ award by “Women’s peace Power Foundation, USA. Rajiv Gandhi Manav Seva Award for service to Children, 2004 & 2005 and on 8th March, 2008’ Stree Shakti Award was presented to Mrs. Triveni Acharya by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, UPA president.
HQ-Plot no 39, Fatima Road, Behind Our Lady of Remedy School, Poisar, Kandivali (west), Mumbai-400067, Maharashtra, India.