A typical rural village, where 95% of the girls who are forced into the sex industry come from. It is a distant poor village where more than 50% of its population is illiterate and unemployed. Amanpal, a 11 year old girl from this village has been missing for quite some time now. Amanpal is among the 15 million women and young girls sold into prostitution, according to Rescue Foundation, a NGO which rescues girls and women from brothels, strip clubs, prostitution bars in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Outskirt of Mumbai, India
India and specially Mumbai, act as both a source and a destination for victims of sexual exploitation as well as a site for substantial internal trafficking. Today Mumbai's population of 21 million is nearly the double of the one in 1991 due to the lack of opportunities of living in the countryside. This rapid expansion has led to a large population living in slums, around 9 million people. Mumbai, India.
Residents of Mumbai frequently live in cheap, overcrowded housing far from work. Mumbai, India.
Mumbai, also called Bombay, is the capital of the state of Maharashtra, the most populous city in India and the 4th in the world. Mumbai, India.
Mumbai's population has grown very rapidly over the past two decades and most of its population is migrants from other regions in the country who came seeking better employment opportunities. In Mumbai city the sex ratio is 832 women per 1000 men due to the practice of female feticide and to the male migration. Mumbai, India.
Girls in front of an entrance of brothels in Kamathipura, the red district of Mumbai city where there are 20.000 girls and women that are trafficked into prostitution, according to the government. Brothels are everywhere, as much as gangsters who are around to watch the movement of clients and prevent the girls from escaping. Mumbai, India.
Women and Girls inside of brothels in Kamathipura area. Extreme poverty and other causes of deprivation not only push people to fall in the trap of the traffickers but also create for some of them an incentive for trafficking. Mumbai, India.
Women and young girls waiting for clients on the street in Kamathipura. The prostitutes who have no option to come out of the exploitative environment often gradually develop intimate connections with the traffickers and follow their footsteps. Mumbai, India.
Women working as prostitutes sitting on the sidewalk waiting for clients in front of brothels. According to Triveni, the President of Rescue Foundation, girls around 8 - 9 years old when kidnapped are sold unconscious straight to the brothels around 3 - 5 am. The girls spend a week not understanding what is really happening. After the first weeks they realize that they won’t be going anywhere but staying there. Other girls that are already in the brothels and in the same situation explain that their mother hated them - reason why they have sold them. This information is not true but is what they all learn. With a low self stem, they are all brain washed with phrases of bad parenting and hatred so they begin to disbelieve in what they believed all their lives. After a while the girls start to sympathize with their traffickers and to feel “safe” in the brothels afraid of more extreme violence out side the brothels. Mumbai, India.
Young girls and women stand in front of brothels in the Red district of Kamathipura. 4 - 5 years is the average time for a girl into the trafficking circuit of sexual exploitation. Before 2 - 3 years of ‘in house‘ they never go out, not even to a supermarket. Traffickers keep buying and selling girls due to the demand for young ones as a result of the misconception that physical intimacy with young girls reduces men’s chances of contracting HIV / AIDS or of the myth that sex with a virgin can cure HIV / AIDS and impotence. Mumbai, India.
Young girls working as prostitutes on the streets of the Red District Kamathipura to attract clients. Each girl has around 20-25 clients per day. In Mumbai there are girls from Nepal, Bangladesh, and various areas of India. The first traffickers always speak the girl’s language, so if the girl is from Nepal her trafficker is also from Nepal, according to Rescue Foundation. 60-70% of the girls are addicted to drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Mumbai, India.
Triveni Acharya runs the Rescue Foundation. In the past she worked as a journalist. Her husband was a businessman. In 1993 a friend of theirs met and fell in love with a girl working at a brothel in Mumbai. He pledged his love and proposed marriage to her but she told him that she was not free to leave the brothel; she had been trafficked and was the madam’s prisoner. The friend asked for Triveni’s help in freeing the girl, once that she was a well-known journalist in Mumbai and made a reportage about prostitution in Kamathipura interviewing many people from politics to police officers. With her contacts soon Triveni’s husband made a raid on the brothel with a police agent taking only the girl in love with his friend and another one who implored him to leave the brothel. While they were there thirteen other young girls begged them for help and rescue. But they couldn’t take them all. Triveni’s husband was unable to wipe the vision of their desperate faces from his mind so he returned and rescued all of them as well. At first Triveni and her husband used their own home to shelter the girls. In time they sold their home; quit their jobs; and began running the rescue operations full time, helping as many women and children out of sexual exploitation and into their shelters as they could. Triveni’s husband died in suspicious car accident in 2005. She understands that she too may be targeted by angry brothel owners, but finds comfort in the knowledge that the work of the Rescue Foundation can continue without her. Mumbai, India.
Security guard of a shelter where girls were rescued from brothels in and around Mumbai. Mumbai, India.
Social worker with his daughter at home in the shelter. He helps assist the girls in and out of the shelter. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Entrance of a shelter where more than 300 young girls and women live. They all were rescued from brothels around India. These girls entered into the sex industry when they were around 6 - 8 years old. They arrived here after they were rescued when they were around 12 - 14 years old. There is a dedicated team of social workers, psychologists and guards to counsel and protect these girls; to guide them on how to deal with the traumas of the past, preparing them for the future. Mumbai, India.
Girls at lunch time in the shelter. These girls were rescued from brothels around India and now they are being alphabetized and prepared for the near future; either to get back to their villages, if it can be found; to get married; to continue studying or if they decide they can also stay and help in the shelter. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Girls working in the Jewelry production at the shelter. They were trafficked from mainly Nepal and Bangladesh and different regions of India into the sex industry in Mumbai. There are around 300 women and girls rescued at this location and they are aged between 8 and 30. Mumbai, India.
Girls who were sold into sexual slavery and have contracted HIV are cared for at the Rescue Foundation. Kana, 19, comes from a big family. She has three brothers and three sisters all of whom are either married or financially independent. They were all raised by their grandmother. Kana has suffered from urinary incontinence since she was a small child and it has spoiled her social and emotional life. She has always felt alone and unloved. Her vulnerability appealed to a man she met at a local festival. He was named Vishal. Within a few short days they became friends; soon afterwards he proposed marriage and Kana accepted. Vishal moved her to a hotel in Pune and locked her in their room telling her it was for her own safety. They moved on to Mumbai where Vishal sold all of Kana’s jewelry to pay for their journey and then they went on to Delhi. Vishal continued to insist that they would be married. Together they arrived at the house of a woman named Nirmala. Vishal left abruptly making false excuses and did not return. When Kana asked after him, Nirmila told her that he had sold her into prostitution. She was moved from brothel to brothel. When she arrived at her final destination the madam told her that she had to work off all expenses she had caused. She was forced to see up to 30 clients per day and each paid her less than the going rate because of her condition. Everything that she earned was taken away from her. Eventually she asked a client for help. He contacted the Rescue Foundation and she was brought to one of their protective homes. She was emotionally torn, full of shame and self-doubt but also deeply angry with the people who had betrayed and used her. Counseling is helping her overcome some of these issues. Basic academic and vocational training is ensuring that she will be able to move on with her life. Mumbai, India.
Dance therapy. Some of the girls who live here were only 8 years old when they were forced into prostitution. They were given hormone supplements in order to appear more mature. They may have worked in brothels for as many as 4 - 5 years and many have forgotten the names of their families and villages, making it impossible to return them to their homes. Here they are able to recapture some semblance of their childhoods. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Girls in the shelter doing daily activities like sewing and reading. Residents stay at the center until they are well enough to leave to work, and/or to marry and have families of their own. Men sometimes come to the center’s organizers looking for wives. Matches are made with the understanding that the men will not raise the issue of prostitution with their wives and cause them further trauma. The Rescue Foundation keeps in touch with all of the women who are married off this way. Mumbai, India.
Girls in the other side of the shelter looking and cheering Triveni. They have a unique love for Triveni who saved them from rapes and extremely torture while they were in the brothels and strip clubs. In the shelter they are alphabetized and counseled. They learn dance, music and how to deal with the scars of the years they passed being sold from brothel to brothel. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Abha 14 year old, with mental health problems and HIV positive. She was sold from brothel to brothel in Mumbai, having around 25 clients per day when she was 11, 12 years old. She worked for around 3 years, until she was rescued by the Rescue Foundation. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Dipa, 14 years old, was a typical village girl. She lived with her family, played with friends and attended school. She had little idea about the world outside of her village. The cousin of one of her friends came to live in her village. His name was Bablu and he was 27 years old. Despite being far older than Dipa he quickly became besotted with her. He followed her to school and waited for her afterwards. A relative noticed his inappropriate behavior and informed Dipa’s parents. They complained to Bablu but he reassured them of his good intentions by enacting a ‘knotting ceremony’ with Dipa. This commitment ceremony made them kin, like brother and sister, and as such made him responsible for her protection. In reality, however, Bablu was planning to kidnap Dipa to sell her to traffickers. With the help of some of Dipa’s male friends he drugged her and held her in the village for twenty-four hours. He then moved her to Delhi and, later, to his hometown Bihar. In Bihar he held her in a house on the outskirts of town. He raped her for three consecutive days, injecting her with narcotics whenever she fought back. She was unable to leave the house; she was his prisoner. Dipa’s parents contacted the police as soon as they discovered that both Bablu and Dipa were missing from the village. The police shared their information with the Rescue Foundation. Bablu changed his phone number six times in eight days to avoid capture. The Rescue Foundation eventually tracked him down in Bihar. They found Dipa unconscious and terribly weak. Dipa has remained at one of the Rescue Foundation’s protective homes. She wants to complete her academic and vocational training and become a nurse. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Baji is 18 years old and mentally and physically disabled. She suffers severe health problems. Baji was raised by her maternal uncle and his wife. In 2010 their village suffered a severe drought. Baji’s uncle was faced with the nearly impossible task of feeding his family and paying his debts. He told Baji he could no longer feed her and that he was returning her to her father’s care. At the train station in Patna he sold Baji to a man named Raju. Raju sold her to a brothel in Mumbai’s red light district. Baji did not understand what was expected of her at the brothel. When clients approached her she would scold them or run away. This caused fights between clients and the brothel’s owner who would, in turn, become furious with Baji. The owner decided that gang rape would be the best solution to Baji’s lack of understanding and enlisted pimps and agents to enact the crime. Afterwards Baji was unconscious for two days and continued to bleed for three. She could not eat or speak. In time she was led to believe that the clients were her ‘husbands,’ who had sex with her only out of love, but she continued to find the work emotionally and physically painful. She was rescued after a full year at the brothel. She has now lived at one of the Rescue Foundation’s protective home for eight months. She is unlikely to return home and will remain under their care in the long-term. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Taanu lives and works in the shelter. She was first rescued from a brothel after 2 years working as a prostitute by the police and sent to the government shelter. One day a lady “proving” her blood ties with Taanu with fake papers arrived in the shelter. Taanu was promised a beautiful life and job outside the shelter in exchange of her positive confirmation. Taanu had to say only that the woman was her relative. She did so, and they freed her. In reality that lady was another trafficker, who traded her for money to a brothel owner and she spent 3 more years being sold from brothel to brothel until she was saved by Rescue Foundation where she receives alphabetizing classes, to be able to catch up with others of the same age in the public school. In their daily activities in the shelter the girls also receive vocational, sewing and jewelry training; psychological counseling; yoga and meditation classes. Mumbai, India.
Muskaan, 14 years old, in the kitchen of the shelter. She was rescued from a brothel in the red district of Mumbai and brought to the shelter 3 years ago. She is from Bangladesh and she doesn’t remember the name of her village so she cannot be repatriated. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Girls resting and talking in their free day on the roof of the shelter in Mumbai. Some days they work; 5 - 6 days they study and every day they meditate and they practice yoga. This fence was put up to prevent suicides; the girls are often severely depressed when they first arrive. Mumbai, India.
Girls going to have lunch in the cafeteria of the shelter. These girls were rescued from brothels around India by the Rescue Foundation. An average of 1000 girls are rescued from the brothels and strip clubs in India by the police, by other NGOs and Rescue Foundation. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Adiv lives freely in the shelter outside of Mumbai. In the shelter, the girls plant their own vegetables and have a natural way of life. Adiv has been living here since she was rescued, 6 years ago. She could not return to her family because she was not accepted back. So she decided to study and continue her life working and helping the new girls to deal with their pasts and to build a stronger future. Outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Self Portrait, documenting “Human Trafficking” in the outskirts of Mumbai, India.
Girls for Selling - India
India, one of the biggest countries in the world has a staggering number of people living below the poverty level – 800 million people live on less than 2 dollars a day. 90% of the work is informal and around 700 million people live in small villages in rural areas. The population of the entire country is around 1.200 billion people. Most Indians depend on their land or on work in other farms. The people from rural areas are also an enormous source of cheap and informal labor for the cities. They work without any job security, neither legally nor physically. They live in same places they work, in very poor conditions and far away from their wives and families. In the city, everything is for sale, including young girls and women. Street prostitution and brothels are a largely urban phenomenon that is especially widespread in cities with a large migrant male population, such as Mumbai. Kamathipura, the red-light district in Mumbai, has around 20.000 young girls and women who have been trafficked from the countryside, working as prostitutes in the streets and in the brothels. According to the government, 70% of these girls and women are HIV positive. This is the reason why, unfortunately, many men prefer to have sex with young children, as young as 8 years old, to avoid the risk of contracting an STD.