She is Priceless: Freedom Firm

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RESCUE. RESTORATION. JUSTICE

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Gandhi

Do we feel weak? Understaffed? Overwhelmed by the enormity of the work?
Yes, to all of those. Does that change anything? NO! 
Exploitation of young girls is not acceptable in our world.
We must have the will to stop it. Despite the overwhelming numbers, Freedom Firm is determined to provide rescue, restoration and justice to victims of sex trafficking in India.

The Mission of Freedom Firm is the rescue, restoration and justice for victims of sex trafficking in India. Freedom Firm's target group is girls under the age of eighteen, legally considered children, who have been trafficked into the sex trade. According to studies conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, at least 1.3 million children are exploited in brothels in India each year. They are a generation of young women betrayed by family lured by promised jobs and sold to be sexual slaves.

Our undercover operatives locate minor girls enslaved in brothels and document the crime. This information is then reported to the police. The team, along with the police, raid the brothels, rescue the girls and arrest the brothel keepers and traffickers. The rescued girls are then placed in shelter homes, and criminal complaints are filed against the oppressors.

We then work with legal and welfare structures to advocate for protection, opportunity and justice for each girl. Laws prohibit the exploitation of minor girls, but there is a huge gap between the law and its implementation. Our legal team works with public prosecutors to build a case against the perpetrators. Rescued girls are empowered to testify against their abusers and help bring them to justice. Every trial and conviction creates a deterrent and raises the cost of sex trafficking in India.

With well over 400 girls rescued, each girl’s journey after rescue looks different. Their needs, locations and levels of assistance are as diverse as the girls themselves, and our restoration program is therefore adapted accordingly. Our social workers seek to ensure that once rescued; girls remain safe and free from the risk of re-trafficking. The holistic aftercare program includes counselling, home investigations to ensure safe reintegration, follow-up visits, education & healthcare support, employment opportunities, an annual camp, and a long term relationship of advocacy and care, thus ensuring that each girl is given the tools she needs for a life of dignity and self-worth.

Over the last ten years, we have seen what makes a big difference. Quite simply, but agonisingly slow, it’s about persevering every time, whether we seem to be winning or losing.
It’s all the tiny steps towards justice.
It’s meeting with the same police, again and again, to beg them to do a raid.
It’s filing writ petitions in court to stop illegal proceedings.
It’s opposing bail for the perpetrators.
It’s the thousand kilometre train ride to see if a girl is still safe with her family after the rescue.
It’s the perseverance of our staff that put their lives on the line; the social worker who gives HIV counseling gently with sensitivity; the investigator who goes undercover in the brothel and risks temptation and exposure; the production manager in our fair trade business who insists on quality because she knows anything else erodes dignity in the employees.

 

Varsha's* Story

Freedom Firm rescued Varsha in June 2011. She was released and re-trafficked, thanks to the systemic failures which Freedom Firm encountered at that time. Fortunately, Freedom Firm's team was able to rescue her again in 2013. Unlike after her first rescue, Varsha confined to the social worker that she wanted to leave prostitution. We were thrilled to be able to advocate for her and took steps to transfer her to a better aftercare in Mumbai. We did not realise it would be another two years of continuous efforts and at times painful difficulty for the transfer to become a reality.

Varsha's transfer order was passed in December 2015, but she was not moved to another shelter home until February 2016, due to police unavailability. This was a window of opportunity for Freedom Firm. Once a girl is transferred, it's difficult to bring her back to the court to testify. In a few cases, the shelter homes refuse to send the girls to testify. When they are released to their parents, they either don't want to send their girls to testify or are unaware that their daughters were in prostitution in the first place. Thanks to the delay in Varsha's case, our legal team was able to take advantage of the situation and request the court to summon her to testify.

The court immediately issued summons to Varsha to testify on February 18, 2016. She stated in court that she was forced into prostitution.

In March, after a long and patient wait, Varsha was transferred from Nagpur to a Shelter home in Mumbai. She will remain safe and have the opportunity to be involved in several activities at home. We celebrate the long-awaited next step in Varsha's journey.

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