At Prerana we strive to protect the rights of prostituted women and to end the cycle of intergenerational trafficking. In our 30 years of intervention in the red-light areas of Mumbai, we have learned that breaking the cycle is a difficult, but not impossible task. It can be achieved collectively. Below is the success story of Farah, a survivor of intergenerational trafficking. Farah’s experience is a glimpse into the institutionalized and multi-layered violence which characterizes the sex trade. It also shares the hope that with collective efforts, it is possible to combat that violence. _____________________________________________________________________________
In 1999 we met Farah’s mother, Parveen, in the red-light district of Kamathipura, Mumbai. Farah was six years old. Parveen was brought to Mumbai when she was barely 14 with the promise of marriage. Instead she was sold into the sex trade.
With our support, Parveen enrolled Farah in school and our Night Care Center (NCC), a place for prostituted mothers to protect their children.
For the next six years, Parveen faced ongoing challenges. Her health deteriorated. She was regularly beaten by her admi*, a regular customer known as Mr. S and member of the Indian Home Guard*. Forced by her failing health to take a loan from her brothel keeper, she struggled to repay her debt. Her brothel keeper had her thrashed by the police as punishment. She always refused our help for these “personal matters.” However, she continued to send Farah to school, as well as Prerena’s Day Care Centre (DCC) and NCC.
In 2005 Parveen revealed she was HIV positive. She requested that, in the event of her death, we protect Farah from the sex trade: “I don’t want what happened to me to happen to my daughter. I want her to lead a life of dignity.”
However that year, when Farah reached puberty, Parveen was pressured to allow Abbas, a local pimp, to sponsor Farah’s coming of age ceremony. Simultaneously, Parveen and Farah were sold to Abbas. Farah dropped out of school and the NCC. Soon after, Parveen and Farah disappeared from the red-light area.
We began a search to find them. Prostituted women in the area told us that Parveen and Farah were taken by Mr. S. A year later we learned Parveen died from illness. Mr. S. sold Farah back to Parveen’s brothel keeper. On September 13th, 2006 we legally rescued Farah from the brothel with the help of the police. She was 13 years old.
At first, she was angry that we had taken her from the brothel-keeper who she believed loved her. Farah did not understand that the brothel-keeper was only grooming her for life as a prostitute.
Eventually, Farah understood the situation. She disclosed details of life with Mr. S. She was forced to work to pay for her mother’s hospital bills. While living with her mother in his home, Mr. S would fondle Farah. Once, when her mother was hospitalized, he raped her. She did not raise an alarm because she feared the repercussions of seeking help.
Farah eventually gained the confidence to tell her story to the police, leading to the arrest of Mr. S.
Farah has since moved to a Mumbai-based long-term shelter and resumed school. She is now pursuing a career in the hotel industry. This year, Farah participated in the Global Freedom Exchange, a program for women who lead efforts to prevent and respond to child trafficking.
As a growing leader on this issue her message is clear:
“There should be early intervention to protect young girls from having to endure violence; it has to be stopped before it begins. […] I was lucky to get necessary and timely support but there are many who don’t get it. No society should give up on its children […] Education is the key to progress.”
Watch a short film about Priti’s work.
Engage with Prerana on Facebook.
*Admi: a regular customer of a prostituted woman who acts like her husband and hence has free sex with her and controls her finances. He arranges for the customers and thus functions as the pimp.
*The Indian Home Guard is an Indian paramilitary police force. It is a voluntary force, tasked as an auxiliary to the Indian police.