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The dark side of Goa’s beaches

Sudha’s story illustrates the now-familiar cycle of poverty and sexual exploitation. She was pushed into prostitution as a teenager by her own family to earn money. It’s ironic that, in order to endure the torment of being raped daily by strangers, Sudha became an alcoholic and everything she earned was spent on alcohol. A bar owner in Goa took advantage of her addiction by offering her a deal – that she would provide free sex to his customers in return for free alcohol from him. Sudha accepted. She serviced up to 15 customers a day and drank all she could.

Time passed. By now, Sudha had four children. Since she never received any money at all from the bar owner, she could not feed her children and they went hungry. Their plight came to the attention of local people who complained to ARZ, a local NGO. The LILY Foundation supports ARZ.

ARZ identified Sudha but needed a legal pretext to intervene. They located her mother and got her to register a formal complaint. Armed with the legal paperwork, ARZ sought the help of Goa’s Crime Branch. They conducted a raid on the bar and rescued two prostitutes, including Sudha. Five traffickers were arrested, including the bar owner and pimp.

Sudha was sent to a protective home run by the government, where the ARZ workers regularly visited her. After intensive counselling, she and her children were moved out and Sudha was found employment with a company named Swish Wash. Her four children, the youngest of whom is now three, have all started attending school.

The second prostitute rescued with Sudha died of AIDS.

In 2011, Sudha’s case came up for hearing and she received a court summons to attend. She also received death threats from the traffickers, who threatened to kill her if she gave testimony against them. Afraid, Sudha did not wish to depose against them but the ARZ team gave her the necessary support and confidence to go ahead. The public prosecutor too was encouraging and supportive.

It was painful to re-visit her past but Sudha did so courageously. She narrated in great detail her ordeals and exploitation by the bar owner. The defence for the pimps did their best to undermine her credibility and character but they did not succeed.

Sudha said that her anger gave her the courage to speak up. ‘
I want this man to be punished so that no other girls get exploited.

Contrary to popular myth, girls such as Sudha are not ‘fallen women’ who choose prostitution. They are tricked and enslaved into a life of such horrors that we cannot comprehend it, a life of physical beatings, starvation, humiliation, of imprisonment in a brothel. A life devoid of love and affection, companionship, nutrition and healthcare, recreation or any of the things we take for granted. Even a walk on a nice day with a friend is but a distant dream for such girls.

help us to help the thousands of Sudhas trapped in brothels.
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A girl from the holy city of Benaras

The obsession with having sons has created a huge gender imbalance in India where girl foetuses are regularly aborted and infant girls often murdered with a pinch of opium. Haima was one such girl punished for being born.

She came from a traditional Muslim family of Benaras.
'I’m one of those ill-fated girls, who are unwanted, while the family was desperate for a boy’ she says. She never went to school and had no friends. At the age of 13, her family got rid of her by marrying her to an older man, who brutally raped her. After just one year of marriage, her husband died. Haima was pregnant but her in-laws threw her out, declaring that she was ‘inauspicious for the family’ (manhoos). She tried to return to her parents but they didn’t welcome her either.

‘I questioned my very existence but had another life inside me and had to take care of it’ she says. She gave birth to a son, Asif. The baby brought joy and love into her life for the first time.

After giving birth, she left her parents home with her baby. Having nowhere to go, she walked to the nearest railway station. Seeing her alone and in distress, a woman named Reena approached her, professing sympathy. Haima confided all and Reena invited her home, promising her a job. Instead, Reena sold her into prostitution. The traffickers broke her spirit by taking away her baby and locking her up without food or water. They threatened to harm Asif and beat her mercilessly.

‘I had no choice but to give in to my destiny’ she says. She became a prostitute on Delhi’s G.B. Road where regular customers included policemen. She drank alcohol to numb her senses, took to smoking, and attempted suicide by slashing her wrists.

Haima’s nightmare only ended when she was rescued by STOP India in a raid on the Delhi brothel. Reena the trafficker sent her messages threatening to kill Asif if she testified against them so Haima stayed silent for a long time.

It was with the encouragement and support of Roma, who runs STOP India, that Haima finally made a statement. Roma even traced her son, who had been sold to a childless couple. The couple refused to return Asif to Haima. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Eventually Haima made the heartbreaking decision to leave Asif where he was because the couple were good to him.
‘All I want is a good future for my child’ she says.

Haima lived at the STOP refuge for a long time. With prolonged treatment and counselling, she recovered sufficiently to get married and leave.

LILY helps victims to recover from such deep traumas and have the courage to continue living. We do so by
supporting our partner projects in India, those who run rescue and rehabilitation shelters, restoring humanity where none exists.
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RADHA of Rajasthan

When Radha, 14, was promised a job in Delhi by Surmoni, she jumped at the chance. Illiterate and malnourished, Radha had no future. Her father earned a meagre Rs.20 per day (about 25 pence) and the family could not afford even one meal a day. Surmoni belonged to the same Rajasthan village but lived in Delhi. Surmoni told Radha she would get her a job as a housemaid, same as her, and she would be able to send money home, so Radha accompanied her to India’s capital city.

Surmoni had tricked Radha. She was in reality a prostitute. Surmoni took Radha straight to G.B. Road, Delhi’s red light district, and sold her into a brothel for Rs.5000 (about £65).

The terrified Radha was brutally beaten, starved and humiliated into submission. This is common practise in Indian brothels where victims are controlled through fear. She was soon put to work and, as young, virginal girl of 14, she was much in demand. Unable to bear the ordeal of being raped daily by about 20 rough men, including rickshaw-wallahs, taxi drivers and constables, she accepted the alcohol she was offered to numb her senses. Soon she was drinking excessively. She says
‘I still have the lingering smell in my nose, the sweat of countless men I had to entertain, the smoke of (their) cigarettes, the fragrance of Pond’s powder. Abusive words that hailed on me like a hailstorm. Life was a never ending pain both mentally and physically, a cycle that was never ending. (It was) a life devoid of love, compassion, or even a simple smile.’

Of course she received no wages from the brothel , so there was no money to send her family. Ashamed of her circumstances, and feeling stigmatized, Radha never contacted her parents.

Three years passed. Alarmed by her disappearance her parents had made efforts to find her but without any success, until someone put them in touch with Sahyog, a local NGO. Sahyog contacted STOP INDIA in Delhi, which is where Radha had been headed. The LILY Foundation supports STOP INDIA in its vital work of rescuing victims such as Radha and giving them a new life.

STOP INDIA traced Radha to a Delhi brothel. After some planning, they mounted a raid on the brothel, a dangerous thing to do. Raids have to be planned in total secrecy otherwise the brothel owners get the time to hide the child prostitutes. Raids also quickly descend into violence.

Radha was rescued but she was suffering from terrible mental and physical traumas. After a long period of rehabilitation at the STOP INDIA refuge, Radha was taken back to her village. She had the courage to give testimony about the torture she endured in the brothel, despite receiving threats from the pimps and traffickers.

Back in her village, Sahyog took over the task of helping Radha to settle down. She faced social censure for having been a prostitute, despite the fact that she was a prisoner at the brothel, but Radha is a courageous woman who is today a community worker, helping others to understand the world beyond the boundaries of their village. She has also learnt the art of embroidery and is able to sell her handicraft pieces. She says,
‘Today, I have the freedom to be what I want to be and am earning money with dignity’.

LILY can help girls such as Radha with your support. It cost money to rescue Radha and pay for her medical treatment and counselling over a long period.

From our secure lives in Britain, we can surely reach out a helping hand and our donations can save the life of another Radha.