For three months, 18-year-old Geeta (name changed), who was kidnapped from her village in West Bengal and brought to the Capital, was confined to a small room in a brothel at G.B. Road and was repeatedly ‘raped’ by over a dozen men every day. Her trauma only ended after a client turned Good Samaritan and helped her escape.
Geeta was just like one of the hundreds of girls in the area who are kept as bonded labour with the only contact to the outside world being their customers.
“I still remember the day I was rescued. A Nepali girl and I were stuffed into a small tunnel in the terrace when the police conducted a raid. I was terrified and the police had to break down three tunnels before they found us. But my suffering is far from over,” said Geeta, sitting in The Hindu ’s office in Delhi earlier this week flanked by her aged father and brother.
“Geeta comes from a low-income group family and immediately after she was rescued, she was taken to Nari Niketan and ever since her father and brother have been forced to make frequent trips to Delhi for various police and court-related actions. The government pays only for the travel/stay of the victim, but Geeta cannot come to Delhi alone,” said Ravi Kant of non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, which works in the area of anti-trafficking. The group also worked with Geeta’s parents and the police and helped in her rescue.
“It is only because of the sustained work of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and our initiative that the family has been able to come to Delhi and fight the case through this complex legal system,” added Mr. Kant.
While the government and police work well for the rescue of the victims, the follow-up is poor. “Most of the girls who are kidnapped and pushed into the flesh trade are from poor families, that have little access and means to sustain a legal battle to ensure that the kidnappers and brothel owners are brought to justice. They are fighting a system which is well-established, is riddled with corruption and in which information given to the victim is scant,” rued Mr. Kant.
Geeta, who is still coming to terms with the recent events and her ‘lucky escape’, said: “The brothel owners always kept us under a strict regime and there was absolutely no freedom. I cannot forget this episode; it has ruined my family. But now I am keen to finish my education and get a good job.”
“But not many are as lucky as Geeta,” said Rajesh Bhardawaj, who works with sex workers through non-government organisation Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha . “The women here are kept in the most unhygienic conditions and often come to us with skin problems, infections, injury marks, substance dependence and drug abuse problems. There is also no data available about their mental and emotional well-being. They are never tested for lifestyle diseases (with most having no access to a balanced diet, adequate rest and exercise) and sexually transmitted diseases for the fear of stigma and loss of business and livelihood. Their children are almost always sent away from the area by the age of three to five.”
Meanwhile, a brothel owner, Salman (name changed), who has been working and living in the area for the past four decades, too complained about the conditions in the area. “Crime and abuse is rampant in the area and the rights of the sex workers are undercut using corruption and exploitation. The government is not serious about the welfare of these women and that is the only reason this abuse continues unabated. Finish GB Road culture or legalise the trade – that is the only way to save these women.”