Leading girls from hell to humane society (With Images)March 29th, 2011 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS
Mumbai, March 29 (IANS) In a western Mumbai suburb stands a six-storey building housing 100 girls, mostly minors, who are being educated, given vocational training and psychological counselling. One thing binds them — they have all been rescued from brothels across Maharashtra.
Members of Rescue Foundation, an NGO in Kandivli, not only arranged to rescue them but also brought them to the protective home. Now it is helping them rehabilitate, reintegrate with their families and live a life of dignity.
The majority of girls are minors and are recovering from the trauma of being forced into prostitution at a tender age. All the girls hail from different parts of India and some even from other countries.
Established in 2000 by the late Balkrishna Acharya, Rescue Foundation is now managed by his wife Triveni, a former journalist. On an average, it helps rescue 300 girls a year.
“Although my husband used to informally rescue minor girls from Mumbai’s brothels since 1993 with the help of trusted informers, he established a small NGO named Maiti Nepal in association with a Nepal-based organisation in 1995,” said Triveni, the NGO’s president.
“The NGO was renamed as Rescue Foundation in 2000 when we formalised all our operations and also involved the police,” Triveni added.
“We start with tracking the leads we get from the missing person’s records. Then we investigate, verify the information and conduct rescue raids with police’s help,” she explained.
The girls are then brought to the protective home, where they undergo a medical examination and follow a strict health regimen.
“Nearly 20 percent of the girls we rescue are HIV positive. We move them to our second centre in Boisar, Thane district. We ensure that they recover fast — emotionally and physically,” she said.
An in-house pathological laboratory is also established. Rescue Foundation plans to open an out-patients department for the local population.
Triveni said 20 officers of the NGO keep a tab on the activities of the red-light areas.
“Helping our officers are several informers, who pass on tips on minor girls being brought to brothels. Disguised as customers, our officers meet the girls and explain to them about the rescue operation,” she said.
About 80 percent of the girls rescued by the NGO are minors. The officers, however, also rescue adult women willing to leave brothels and enter the mainstream of society.
Till date, Rescue Foundation has rescued over 2,000 girls from brothels across Maharashtra. The NGO plans to have offices in New Delhi and Bhopal soon.
Besides its head office, the NGO has three protective homes — in Kandivli and a recovery centre in Boisor, both with a capacity of 100 girls, and another in Pune with a capacity of 50 girls.
Triveni said the girls’ trauma does not end once they are rescued. “This is when they face the question - Now what?”
The NGO has a staff of 85 people, including teachers who give the girls a crash course in Hindi, English and mathematics. The girls can pass Class 10 in three years.
For legal proceedings, for each rescue operation, the NGO registers a police complaint, to which the rescued girls sign as witnesses.
“The brothel keeper is generally arrested first, followed by its manager or owner. Their bail application is mostly rejected as most of those rescued are minors,” she said.
A few days back, two 12-year-old girls were rescued by the NGO.
“The girls are still clueless about what happened,” Triveni said. “One of them knows she was kidnapped and sent to a godforsaken place; she has no idea what she would have gone through had she not been rescued.”
“I am looking forward to returning to my family. I don’t know why I am here,” said one.
The older girls, however, adjusted to the new loving atmosphere at Rescue Foundation’s protective home. A 15-year-old was elated when Triveni told her that a court order has permitted her to go home, a remote village in West Bengal.
Triveni, who is often addressed as ‘Maa’ (mother) by these girls, is close to tears as she talks about the five who got married in January.
“I attended their weddings in Gujarat. We had arranged for their meetings with the prospective grooms and made them aware of the girls’ past. They were understanding,” she said.
“Yes, we track their well-being, even after they are reintegrated with their families,” she added.
(Mauli Buch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Tags: 100 girls, brothels, dignity, health regimen, hiv, humane society, journalist, medical examination, minor girls, missing person, nepal, ngo, prostitution, rescue foundation, strict health, suburb, tender age, thane district, trauma, vocational training