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INDIA: Child prostitution beside police outpost in Allahabad

March 12, 2009

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-022-2009



12 March 2009
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INDIA: Child prostitution beside police outpost in Allahabad

ISSUES: Human trafficking; child prostitution; police corruption; threat to human rights defenders
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Guria, a local human rights organisation working against women trafficking in Uttar Pradesh, regarding the case of child prostitution beside a police outpost in Allahabad. It is reported that under the jurisdiction of Kotwali Police Outpost, Meerganj red-light area of Allahabad, minors are forced into prostitution, while the police officers look on.

CASE DETAILS:

Guria is a human rights organisation based in Uttar Pradesh state working against human trafficking. Guria, in the course of its work received information that child trafficking and prostitution is continuing unabated in Meerganj red-light area in Allahabad city. Guria gathered information through its investigative visits to the place and through information gathered by volunteers and other first-hand sources. In the process of gathering the information, Guria also came to know that some police officers in Kotwali Police Outpost and some of their superiors in the District police were aware about child prostitution and were in fact conniving with the criminals.

On 6 March, Guria filed an application at the office of the District Magistrate (DM), Allahabad seeking the Magistrate’s order for assistance from the district administration as well as the police, to rescue the children from forced prostitution. Since the District Magistrate was not in office on the day, the application was filed at the office of the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Allahabad.

At about 10.30 am Indian standard time, the ADM issued an order, allowing the application filed by Mr. Ajeet Singh on behalf of Guria and further directing the police to rescue children as identified by Guria from brothels and houses within the Meerganj red-light area. The order also directed the presence of the City Magistrate to be present during the operation.

The order was immediately communicated to the Superintendent of Police, Allahabad, and his subordinate officers and requesting for police assistance in compliance with the ADM’s order. On receipt of the communication, the police refused to cooperate and informed Guria that the police could not provide such assistance immediately as requested. The police posed excused like ‘there is no fuel in police vehicles, there are no enough personnel’ and so on. The police also informed Guria and the City Magistrate that they could only provide the assistance required by about 6pm on the same day or probably the next day morning. Guria continued to pursue the police requesting immediate compliance with the order of the ADM, as it was aware that the police is trying to give time to the brothel keepers and the criminals to remove the children from the brothels and houses where they are kept in the red-light area. As the persuasion continued, the City Magistrate and Guria’s volunteers waited for the police to arrive. At the same time, Guria had arranged for its volunteers to be stationed outside the brothels and houses where the children were kept, to observe whether the children were being removed from these places after receiving information from the police officers who connive with the criminals. When Guria contacted the AHRC about this waiting game played by the police, the AHRC issued an Open Letter calling for the immediate intervention of the state administration to resolve the issue. The letter could be viewed here.

The wait for the police to act continued until about 6pm until the police arrived. When they arrived and houses were searched with police assistance, about 20 children were recovered from the custody of criminals. However, according to Guria’s information there are about 70 children. By the time 20 children were rescued, it was 7pm, and the police informed that they cannot continue with the search to continue the search after 7pm, they required special permission and informed Guria and the City Magistrate that, if required, the search could continue the following day. This was an intentional act by some police officers to help the criminals so that they could escape and along with them shift the children under their custody to other locations to avoid detection. The fact that about 70 children are forced into prostitution in the area has been video documented by Guria, which the AHRC will be making available in its website soon.

The police then took 17 out of the 20 children rescued to the Kotwali Police Outpost along with Mr. Ajeet Singh of Guria. The police in the meanwhile let three children to be taken away by the criminals from police custody. Inside the outpost, the police threatened and harassed Guria and Mr. Ajeet Singh, accusing them of interfering with police work. The Police initially refused to register a crime against the brothel keepers and the criminals. The police further used abusive language against Guria and Mr. Ajeet Singh in particular, and further threatened that they would register a fabricated case against Ajeet, take him into custody, by the night take him out of the outpost, and shoot him, faking an encounter.

Frustrated, outraged, and threatened, Ajeet contacted the AHRC as well as the Frontline [International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders] in Ireland. The AHRC as well as the Frontline contacted the Assistant Superintendent of Police Mr. Akash, informing him that the AHRC as well as the Frontline is monitoring the situation and further requesting the officer to ensure Ajeet’s safety. The officer informed the AHRC as well as the Frontline that no fabricated case would be registered against Ajeet and that he would be safe. The officer however expressed his opinion that unless Ajeet files a complaint to the police, the police would not register a case against the criminals, reiterating further that the police are not willing to cooperate in the entire action. The Guria, Frontline, and the AHRC insisted that the police must proceed according to the law and further ensure that the criminals are not allowed to escape and that Ajeet remains safe. The letter can be viewed here.

The police, with much reluctance, registered a case regarding child prostitution and let Ajeet leave the police outpost along with his lawyer. The entire operation was reported in the local media the following day, exposing the pathetic state of policing and their inability and reluctance to take action against criminals in the locality. Subsequently, the police also issued a media release, accusing Guria that the police were misled by Guria, which has resulted in the miscarriage of justice. However, Guria is certain that most of the girls and women are from Nepal.

In the meanwhile anticipating that the police, under the influence of their criminal associates in the child trafficking racket, would endanger Ajeet’s safety, the AHRC issued a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders calling for an intervention with the Government of India to guarantee the safety of Ajeet and other members of Guria. The issue will also be brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children during an interactive session to be held with the Rapporteur today during the UN Human Rights Council Session.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

This is not the first instance where Guria has faced stiff resistance from the local police whenever they tried to intervene in cases of forced prostitution, human trafficking, and child prostitution. Each time when Guria tried to rescue women and children from forced prostitution in India, the some police officers with the connivance of the criminal elements in the human trafficking racket tried to circumvent the efforts of Guria and its volunteers from exposing the sex-trade that flourishes in some parts of Uttar Pradesh state. For further information regarding these cases please see: UA-190-2005; UP-131-2005; UP-035-2006; UP-036-2007; AHRC-UAU-005-2008; AHRC-UAU-050-2008 and AHRC-UAC-202-2008.

Human trafficking, particularly in girls, is a crime in India that receives open and clandestine support from corrupt politicians and police officers. Girls are the most vulnerable to kidnapping and exploitation by criminal gangs who see forced prostitution and the selling of pornographic films as a lucrative business option. A number of factors have allowed trafficking and child sexual exploitation to flourish in India. This includes: corruption and the failure of the justice systems in India, the police, prosecution and the judiciary in particular; widespread poverty; inequitable socio-economic and political structures resulting from the caste system and vast economic disparity; risk faced by female headed households; lack of education and awareness on human trafficking and forced prostitution; gender discrimination that views women as less important than men and saleable commodities; demand that is maintained by a social and cultural acceptance of prostitution stemming from a patriarchal and caste-based society.
This 'demand factor' that ensures the profitability of the sexual exploitation of children is often overlooked, or brushed away as being an inevitable part of mankind, existing since the beginning of time to meet men's 'needs'. Whether men (and women) turn 'a blind eye' to the circumstances within which girls are kidnapped, sold and brought, then enslaved and subjected to forced rape is uncertain due to a lack of research and knowledge on the customers. Traditionally from a legal perspective, it has not been possible to successfully charge and prosecute a customer, as it might also happen in this case.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 includes a number of prohibiting Sections: 359 (kidnapping), 366A (procreation of minor girl), 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery etc.), 368 (wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapped or abducted person), 372 (selling minor for purposes of prostitution), 373 (buying minor for purposes of prostitution), 374 (unlawful compulsory labour), 375 (rape) and so on. Yet, despite the wide range of laws broken by the perpetrators, the police have failed to investigate this criminal group under any of these charges. The system of police administration and law has instead denied Maya the possibility of even registering a complaint. Police have failed to record a statement, often a very difficult task for such an abused victim, or take any investigation.

The Immoral Traffic Prevention (ITP) Act, 1956 is yet another law in India that facilitates the prosecution and punishment of criminals engaged in human trafficking. In addition to the inherent lacunas in the law, for instance of viewing the victim as well as the criminal forcing a woman into forced prostitution as criminals of equal status, the law still have enough tooth and nail to punish the perpetrators of a crime. Unfortunately, this requires the active and intelligent support from the police as well as the judiciary. This aspect of law enforcement is lacking in India, which perpetuates human trafficking, particularly of children a ‘profitable business’ in India.

The problem of human trafficking in children and accompanying sexual exploitation has grown to such a level internationally that the United Nations has appointed a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. It has also had implications for the spread of HIV/AIDS both within India and globally. However, the Special Rapporteur has not received responses to his communications sent to the government of India. Further international measures include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly Article 34--protection of children from all sexual exploitation and abuse; and Article 37--no child shall be subject to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. India acceded this in December 1992.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the officials listed below urging them to act in accordance with the ITP Act and provided the appropriate assistance, protection and rehabilitation for the rescued girls. Furthermore, the act of intentional non-cooperation of the local police to assist Guria and the City Magistrate in carrying out a successful rescue of children forced into prostitution in Meerganj red-light area must be investigated.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children calling for intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

INDIA: Please take action to stop child prostitution in Meerganj, Allahabad

Names of victims: About 70 children forced into prostitution in Meerganj, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
Date of incident: 6 March 2009

I am writing to voice my concern regarding the non-cooperation of the local police stationed at Kotwali Police Outpost, Meerganj in Allahabad to prevent child prostitution within their jurisdiction.

I am informed that on 6 March, Guria, a human rights organisation working against human trafficking obtained an order from the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Allahabad, directing the local police to assist Guria to rescue about 70 children forced into prostitution in Meerganj. I am informed that the order made at about 10:30am Indian time ADM has categorically directed the City Magistrate to accompany a team of police officers under the guidance of Mr. Ajeet Singh of Guria to rescue women and children illegally detained in brothels and houses in the red-light area of Allahabad city.

I am informed that since then the City Magistrate and Guria's volunteers are waiting for the local police to provide assistance. I am aware that the Superintendent of Police, Allahabad City, has been delaying police assistance on pretences as the police require more time to gather; there is no fuel in the police vehicles and so on, justifying the allegation that the some persons in the police department are intentionally trying to protect criminals engaged in child prostitution in Allahabad.

I am further informed that the Superintendent of Police also informed Guria that they could manage the required personnel only by 7pm on 6 March, consciously ignoring the fact that the police cannot under ordinary circumstances, enter a house to conduct a search after 7 pm. I am informed that in the past the local police have made similar excuses, to give the brothel keepers enough time to remove the women and children from the brothels and further to destroy any evidence of forced prostitution.

I am informed that the wait for the police to act continued till about 6pm until the police arrived. When they arrived, and houses searched with police assistance, about 20 children were recovered from the custody of criminals. However, according to the information made available to me, there were about 70 children to be rescued, but the police deliberately failed to do so. I am informed that after rescuing about 20 children the police informed that they cannot continue with the search. I am informed that this was an intentional act by some police officers to help the criminals so that they could escape and along with them shift the children under their custody to other locations to avoid detection.

I am aware that the police then took 17 out of the 20 children rescued to the Kotwali Police Outpost along with Mr. Ajeet Singh of Guria. I am concerned to know that the police in the meanwhile let three children to be taken away by the criminals from police custody. Inside the outpost, the police threatened and harassed Guria and Mr. Ajeet Singh, accusing them of interfering with police work. The Police initially refused to register a crime against the brothel keepers and the criminals. The police further used abusive language against Guria and Mr. Ajeet Singh in particular, and further threatened that they would register a fabricated case against Ajeet, take him into custody, by the night take him out of the outpost, and shoot him, faking an encounter.

I am concerned to know that the police not only intentionally failed to discharge their duty, but also threatened those who protested and further let the suspects escape with minors, therefore perpetuating crime, rather than preventing it.

I therefore strongly urge you to act quickly in the matter and ensure that the rescued girls are given protection, assistance and rehabilitation in accordance with the ITP Act. Furthermore, immediate steps must be taken to rescue the other children suspected to be held by the criminals in the red-light area. In the meanwhile, Mr. Ajeet Singh and the other staff of Guria must be given protection.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Ms. Mayawati
Chief Minister
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 522 2239234
E-mail: csup@up.nic.in

2. Secretary to the Government
Uttar Pradesh State Government
5th Floor, Lal Bahadur Sastri Bhavan
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA

3. Director General of Police
1-Tilak Marg, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 522 220 6120 / 220 6174
E-mail: police@up.nic.in

4. Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Human Rights Division
1Tilak Marg Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: humanrightshq@up.nic.in

5. Ms. Meira Kumar
Minister, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
Sardar Patel Bhawan
Sansad Marg
New Delhi - 110 001
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 23742133
E-mail: ddpg2-arpg@nic.in

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-022-2009
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.