It was a Sunday night. Tanjia* had been in forced prostitution for three weeks after being trafficked from her home nearly 1,200 miles away.
She was forced to have sex with customers day and night, left with nothing but a plastic coin placed in her hand to tally the transactions. She had managed to contact an NGO for help. But as she waited for rescue, she was about to be moved again — the third brothel in three weeks.
Tanjia waited for an opportunity. When it came, she ran.
She called The Exodus Road’s country director Sudir,* who was planning a raid with his team and local police to rescue Tanjia the very next day. He got the call on a bus, hours away. He and his team got to the city where Tanjia was waiting for urgent help.
They asked police how to respond to her situation. Based on direction from police, our female social worker stayed with Tanjia in a hotel overnight until the team could take her to police to register a case.
Tanjia’s courage had to hold out. Police would need her testimony in order to raid the brothel, arrest the traffickers, and rescue any other victims they could find. She gave investigators the information they needed, and Sudir’s team conducted the raid with police that day.
In Operation FREEDOM RUN, our team helped arrest four traffickers and found four more victims in the brothel, who had been trafficked from Bangladesh. During the initial search, operatives were unable to find the victims. It wasn’t until they heard the sound of a baby crying that they were able to discover the small, hidden room where the four victims were being held. One of the girls was as young as 14 years old.
A High-Risk Operation
Although every raid can be dangerous, this operation was a special case. This brothel is owned by the most powerful brothel keeper in the area: a woman who owns more than 15 brothels, just in that area alone.
She and her husband regularly traffic girls from Bangladesh and other areas of India, and have been known to bribe police and NGOs to maintain their operations. According to our team, this brothel keeper has been operating for 10 years without being raided by police.
“We targeted the biggest brothel keepers who have bribed many NGOs and police officers,” Sudir said. He said the notoriety of the brothel keeper increases risk and need for precautionary measures.
Corrupt and dangerous operating environments require investigators to bring operational excellence to bear on each case. The Exodus Road’s Tactical Advisory Board gives guidance and accountability on rescue operation strategy, risk mitigation, and maintaining focus on victim protection.
Transitioning to Freedom
All of the survivors were taken to a government home for recovery and had to appear in court two days after their rescue. Sudir contacted Tanjia’s parents, who will soon bring her home to her three children, ages 3 to 10. Our team will continue to follow up and help with her legal process.
“The best part of this case is that Tanjia showed bravery to tell the truth,” Sudir said. “She trusted us and called us for help. Not only this, but she helped rescue four more victims and helped arrest four people.”