(21 Mar 1996) Hindi/English/Nat

Girls forced into prostitution in Bombay are being rescued by a team of brothel busters.

The Indian city’s deputy municipal commissioner has been organising the rescue missions which have already freed hundreds of girls from prostitution.

But questions are now being raised as to what happens to the girls once they are “saved” when they face a society unwilling to accept them back.

This is a crusade to free those forced into prostitution in the Indian city of Bombay, recently renamed Mumbai.

G-R Khairnar, Bombay’s Deputy Municipal Commissioner who has been suspended from government service for accusing a former chief minister of corruption, is organising the rescue missions.

14-year-old Radha was living in a village in West Bengal when a local agent lured her away and sold her to this brothel.

For the past two days she has been resisting pressure from the brothel owner to sell her young body.

Fortunately for Radha, help has come just in time.

For the traumatised teenager, the brothel busters are a godsend.

“He said he would take us sightseeing and then he brought us here and went away.”

Khairnar is the new messiah for many of these young girls.

Acting on a tip-off from a girl’s relatives, he and his rescue team set out to raid this brothel.

Shanti, who has been forced to work as a prostitute for nearly six months, has a harrowing tale to tell.

For her family, it is the end of a long and painful search.

“The agent lured her by saying he would get her a job in a cloth mill in Bombay and then he sold her off to the brothel owner and ran away.”
SUPER CAPTION: Raju, rescued girl’s brother

Bombay has one of the biggest red-light districts in India.

The prostitutes here are mostly from southern India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

With poverty and unemployment rampant in the countryside, many girls are easily lured by the prospect of a better life in the cities.

It is estimated that more than 250-thousand customers visit Bombay’s brothels every day.

“In Mumbai town alone there are more than 70-thousand girls living in the brothels. Of these, 40 to 50-thousand have been lured from their native homes by the offer of jobs. Many have been kidnapped and sold off. A girl can fetch a price ranging from 5- thousand rupees (150 dollars) to 150-thousand rupees (5-thousand dollars).”
SUPER CAPTION: G-R Khairnar, Leader of the rescue team

The brothel busters claim to have rescued more than 200 girls from Bombay’s houses of ill repute.

Many of them – like Radha and Shanti – are minors.

The question now being asked is what happens to them after they’re set free.

While some are willing to return home, there are many who have nowhere to go.

State provision to house and rehabilitate these girls is hopelessly inadequate.

Indian newspaper reports have claimed many girls supposedly rescued from brothels were unwilling to leave.

And the brothel owners maintain it’s a business like any other which is providing a livelihood for many poor and helpless women.

“Look, we don’t bargain for the girls. Some agents bring the girls and we buy them. I myself was sold off like this at one time.”
SUPER CAPTION: Bombay brothel owner

Hitting the brothel mistress may help to release some of the anguish, but it doesn’t help solve the problem of where to go next.

In many cases, the girls have got used to having money and a life in the city and find it easier to stay in the brothels than return home.

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