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INDIA: A girl kidnapped and forced into prostitution for two years but police do nothing

September 19, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEAL PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-212-2008

19 September 2008
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INDIA: A girl kidnapped and forced into prostitution for two years but police do nothing

ISSUES: Child trafficking; violence against women; kidnapping; forced prostitution and labour; child rights; police negligence
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed by Guria, a local human rights organisation based in Varanasi, India that a female minor, Maya, was kidnapped and sold by human traffickers.  The girl was sold to the owner of a brothel, held captive, raped, forced to become a prostitute, and tortured with a hot iron rod for two years.

Although police had been informed about her disappearance, the police had taken no steps to investigate the case. She was later able to escape with the help of a customer and flee to her mother.  Despite her willingness to give a statement police have done nothing; made no arrests or done any investigation.  As a result they further jeopardise the safety of Maya as she is under constant fear for her life and that of her family and re-kidnapping by the accused who remain unpunished.  

CASE DETAILS:

Maya (name changed), a minor and daughter of Mr. Achhelal (deceased) and Ms. Basanti Devi, is resident of Mohalla, Munshipura, Kotwali Police Station, Mau district, Uttar Pradesh. 

On the 3 September 2006 at about 6pm a friend of Maya, Nisha, took her to meet Prakash and Ajay, also resident at Mohalla, Munshipura. The victim was given an intoxicating substance and whilst under the influence of this she was kidnapped by Prakash and Ajay.

When Maya regained soundness of mind and became aware of her surroundings, she found herself in a room without any clothes on her body.  Prakash, Ajay who were present with some of their friends began beating the victim, threatening and raping her, one by one.  They also filmed this and took photographs, showing the film to the Maya on their mobile phone.  She was told that if she disclosed this matter to anyone they would distribute the photographs and film all through the Mau district, and then they would kill her. 

Maya was then taken in a car to another place and sold to a women, Afzal Begum for INR 30,000 (USD 648) by Prakash, Ajay, Nisha and others.  Afzal Begum closed Maya inside a room where there were many other girls being held.  Here she learnt that this place was the red light district of Shivdaspur, Manduadih Police Station, Varanasi and that the house was a brothel run by Afzal. 

The following morning, Afzal appeared with friends named Jani, Tulsi and a few others in the room and took the victim to another room.  Maya was told that she was going to be forced to be a prostitute.  When she refused she was burnt with a hot rod and beaten by Afzal and her friends.  Using abusive language Afzal told Maya that she had spent a lot of money buying her and that she would keep on beating her until she earned back all her money, if she still refused to work as a prostitute then Afzal threatened she would cut Maya into pieces. Upon finishing this attack, Afzal orded her friends, Jani and others, to rape her, one by one. 

Over that week the victim was repeatedly beaten, burnt, pierced by the hot iron rod and raped.  The signs of this torture are still visible on Maya's body.  Afzal also changed her name to Reshma. 

As a result Maya was forced to engage in prostitution but also continued to be raped by Prakash and Ajay.  Afzal also made more films, of the victim and the other girls, and took photographs of the girls naked.  Any money that was earned by Maya was taken by Afzal.

During this time Maya became pregnant and gave birth to a child.  Upon becoming a mother the victim's income became less so Afzal responded by more frequently administering torture.  Maya regularly pleaded to one of her regular customers to help her escape.  This person agreed and on the morning of the 17 June 2008 Maya was able to flee from the brothel to a bus stand.  Here the customer gave Maya INR 150 and she was able get a bus to Mau and to reach her mother, Basanti Devi's house. 

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

After Maya's initial disappearance a First Information Report (FIR) was recorded at Kotwali Police Station, Mau district on the 4 November 2006 - Case No. 769/06. No action or investigation was taken.  After her escape on the 17 June 2008, Maya and her mother Basanti wrote a letter to the District Magistrate of Mau--Receipt No. EU 400010193 IN--and to the Superintendent of Police, Mau--Receipt No. EU 400010202 IN--and to the Station House Officer of Kotwali, Mau--Receipt No. EU 400010180 IN--on the 9 July 2008 in order to have the statement of Maya recorded by the Information Officer and the Magistrate, but they have not succeeded.

Maya was only given food once a day by Afzal and others, but if she did not earn money then she would not receive any. 

In the red-light district of Shivadspur, Afzal, Prakash, Ajay, Jani, and Tulsi are well-known for kidnapping girls through fake marriage, intoxication or simply through force, to sell.  Then the girls are forced into prostitution to earn money for them and films (known as blue films) are made in many of the brothels. 

No action, investigation or arrests have been made by police at Kotwali station despite the notoriety of these brothel-owners and human traffickers in the Varanasi area so that Maya still lives under constant fear of a reprisal, being re-kidnapped or killed.

FURTHER INFORMATION:  

Human trafficking, particularly in girls, is prevalent in India.  Female children 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 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.
In cases of forced prostitution, it is hard to prosecute a customer who knowingly engages in commercial sexual exploitation under the current legislative framework. Even in cases where a woman or girl is rescued often the victim woman or girl (otherwise the prostitute) is also charged along with the brothel-keeper and/or a customer. A similar case was reported by Guria through the AHRC a few days before. For further information please see AHRC-UAC-209-2008.

Polices and legal interventions have often done much to hurt and target those that supply, rather than targeting the demand.  Furthermore, it is often only the soliciting, or the trafficking of girls and women that is illegal rather than prostitution itself.

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 fact that Maya gave birth to a child also suggests the prevalence of unsafe sexual practices in brothels. It also suggests that a victim like Maya could easily fall prey to sexually transmitted illnesses like HIV/AIDS.

Police corruption is rife in India and officers are often gaining from the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in Varanasi as much as the criminal groups.  Bribes and political influence can also prevent officers from taking any action, protecting perpetrators and allowing them to continue to traffic.
 
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 authorities mentioned below demanding an investigation into this case. The perpetrators must be arrested and punished in accordance with the law.

The AHRC has written separate letter to the UN Special Rappoteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences calling for intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please bring justice to the victim of human trafficking and forced prostitution

Name of victim: Maya, daughter of Mr. Achhelal (deceased) and Ms. Basanti Devi; resident of Mohalla, Munshipura, Kotwali Police Station, Mau district, Uttar Pradesh
Name of alleged perpetrator:
1. Ms. Afzal Begum, brothel owner
2. Prakash
3. Ajay
4. Tulsi
5. Jani
(All operate in the red light district of Shivdaspur in Varanasi)
Date of incident: 3 September 2006 to 17 June 2008
Place of incident: Shivdaspur red light district, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
 
I am writing to voice my concern over the ill-treatment Maya received by officers at Kotwali Police Station and their poor handling and conduct over the case. Officers allowed a First Information Report (FIR) to be recorded on the 4 November 2006, Case No. 769/06, but no action or investigation was taken. 

I have been informed that on the 3 September 2006 Maya was intoxicated and kidnapped by Prakash and Ajay - also from Mohalla, Munshipura, Mau district - and sold to Afzal Begum, a brothel owner for INR 30,000 (USD 648).  For almost two years Maya was beaten, forcibly raped and gang-raped, tortured by a hot rod, threatened and filmed for the sale of pornographic films and photographed naked.  Any earnings were taken by Afzal and the rest of the group for their own use and punishment for no earnings was to go without food.

I am aware that despite an FIR in 2006 the victim was only able to escape two years later through the help of one of her customers, where she was able to flee to her mother.  Police officers have still not taken a statement, often a traumatizing experience for the victim in itself, or responded to letters written to the District Magistrate of Mau, the Senior Superintendent of Police or the Station House Officer of Kotwali Police Station.  Despite the notoriety of the accused in Shivadaspur, the red light district of Varanasi the police have made no arrests.  As a result Maya continues to live in fear of further physical and psychological abuse by her captors, of re-kidnapping, or of being killed.

I am informed that police inaction is often the result of the endemic corruption in the police administration and its entwinement with the political party.  Officers usually benefit from this commercial sexual exploitation of girls in Varanasi or are subject to bribes and influence. 

I therefore urge you to investigate why an extremely serious case of kidnapping and human trafficking in Varanasi is not being handled according to the criminal procedures of the police administration and judiciary.  Furthermore, I ask you to provide Maya and her family with the protection needed against the threatening and violent behaviour of the accused to prevent her becoming another victim at the hands of human traffickers.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Senior Superintendent of Police
Varanasi, SSP Office, Kachahari
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: sspvns@up.nic.in

2. Inspector General of Police
Varanasi Zone
Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
E-mail: igzonevns@up.nic.in

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. District Magistrate
Varanasi
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: +91 54 2234 8313
E-mail: dmvsn@satyam.net.in

5. Ms. Mayawathi
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 52 2223 0002 / 2223 9234
E-mail: csup@up.nic.in

6. Minister of Women and Child Development
Government of India
Shastri Bhavan
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23074054
E-mail: min-wcd@nic.in

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-212-2008
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.