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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
(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.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Senior Superintendent of Police
Varanasi, SSP Office, Kachahari
2. Inspector General of Police
Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh
3. Director General of Police
1-Tilak Marg, Lucknow
Fax: + 91 522 220 6120 / 220 6174
4. District Magistrate
Fax: +91 54 2234 8313
5. Ms. Mayawathi
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Fax: + 91 52 2223 0002 / 2223 9234
6. Minister of Women and Child Development
Government of India
Fax + 91 11 23074054
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)