Sunday, November 25, 2018


Reference: 'Prison would have been better': Women Cry Foul over celebrated Indian Charity, an article by Joshua Caroll, through a grant from Pultizer Center on Crises Reporting published by 'The Guardian' on 23rd Nov,2018, 07.00 GMT 

At the outset I wish to state that I will be tackling all the unfounded malicious lies stated in the article, in the appropriate court of law. This response is for the million of well-wishers, supporters of the mission and also for those who just read the article and do not know what to make of it.

As this is going to be slightly long, let me summarize the content:
Context & timing of the article
• Legal framework of rescue & rehabilitation
• Prajwala Shelters - A Protective Home
• Legally mandated protocols for a Protective Home
• Media & Protective Home
• Malicious allegations of violence

1. Context in which the article is written
Many anti-trafficking crusaders in India have worked relentlessly this year to advocate for the Trafficking of Persons( Prevention, Protection & Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 which was passed in Lok Sabha ie. the Lower House of the Indian Parliament on 26th July 2018. So they are much aware of the context in which such malicious allegations are being made and the consequence it might have for the advocacy efforts.
This context setting is for all those who are unaware of the prevailing challenges in bringing this much-needed legislation and the pivotal role that Prajwala as an organization and I as an individual have played in advocating for this legislation.      
In 2004, Prajwala filed a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) 56/2004 in the Supreme Court, praying for Victim Protection Protocol in rescue and rehabilitation of sex trafficked victims. In 2015 while disposing the PIL, the Honb’le Court passed an order that a comprehensive legislation to combat trafficking as proposed by Ministry of Women & Child Welfare should be drafted and an Organized Crime Investigating Agency should be established in 6 months. Soon after the Ministry set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee and started the lengthy process of drafting the comprehensive legislation. After a series of drafts, finally in early 2018, a finalized version was brought out, ‘The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Protection & Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. After a lot of effort the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha/Lower House on 26th July 2018.  This Bill is proposed to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha/Upper House of the parliament this winter session in December 2018.
The ‘sex workers’ lobby have vehemently opposed this Bill on several grounds including calling it ‘Protectionist’.  It might be also pertinent to mention that a few people claiming to be working on anti-trafficking have also opposed the Bill on some flimsy grounds which in my personal opinion has more political agenda than actual substance.
What is there in this Bill that is worrisome for many? The Bill makes first of all, rehabilitation a right for any rescued trafficked victim. Further it not only provides for a rehabilitation fund but also mandates to set up short term and long term Protection and Rehabilitation Homes respectively. It also for the first time, makes all Protection Homes accountable and makes any victimization or dereliction of duties in Protection Homes a criminal offence.  
Why is the sex workers lobby worried?
They are worried because they fear that all ‘sex workers’ will be picked up and admitted in these homes. It is a needless fear, if one reads the Bill without prejudice, it is crystal clear that it is meant only for trafficked victims and in case there is a voluntary worker, Sec40 allows the person to submit an affidavit to the Magistrate for release.

As the winter session of the parliament comes closer, there is a compelling need for this lobby to discredit the most proclaimed Rehabilitation Model in India which is the Prajwala’s Model.

Hundreds of Judges, Police Officers, Government officials have visited this model and it has become the reason for several states trying to work out a modality to replicate this model.
Government Of Telangana requested Prajwala to co-manage their Government Home located at Kukatpally in order to replicate this model. Several other states are also now looking at replicating this model.
2. Legal framework of rescue & rehabilitation/care & protection
Rescue of women & girls in prostitution is done as per Sec 16 of the Immoral Traffic Persons Prevention Act(ITPPA), 1986. It is purely a Police activity.
In recent times, many NGO’s including Prajwala have assisted the Police in rescue work as per the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines of setting Anti Human Trafficking Units which is located in Crime Investigation Department (CID) which is a specialized unit taking up only sporadic rescues once or twice a year.
The normal local police conduct rescues in brothels and other places of sexual exploitation throughout the month without taking any support of any NGO.
So the dramatic opening remarks of the article itself is a pathetic figment of fertile imagination, it cannot be a rescue done by the police. Imagine doing this kind of thing on a public road in this era of social media when everyone in India has a mobile phone. The Hyderabad City Police will have a tough time if they conduct themselves like this.     
Post rescue, for further care and protection of the victim it is only a Court that can direct a victim to be admitted in a protective Home under Sec 17 of the ITPPA.  
3. Prajwala Shelters- A Protective Home
Prajwala Shelters are legally termed as ‘Protective Homes’ which is licensed under Sec 21 of the Immoral Traffic Persons Prevention Act, 1986 (ITPPA).
ITPPA currently is the only legislation that addresses both sex trafficking and prostitution.  As per this law, a person in prostitution when rescued under Sec 16, is then produced before the Magistrate who will pass an order to keep her in a Protective Home. After the statutory enquiry period, if the Magistrate feels that the person requires care and protection then an order is passed for a longer stay in a Protective Home for a period not less than 1 year and not more than 3years.
The license is issued by the Government after a rigorous due diligence and renewed every year. A Committee comprising of the Revenue Divisional Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, District Welfare Officer and District Child Protection Officer visit the home, study the standards of care, interact with the residents and then submit their report to the Government based on which the license is renewed.
Prajwala is the first licensed Protective Home in Andhra Pradesh & Telangana and continued to be the only one for many years till recently.  
Prajwala has time and again questioned the Government of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh regarding the number of unlicensed homes under the Ujjwala Scheme and has even filed a Public Interest Litigation in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana about the lack of Government run Facility for sex trafficked victims and the poor standards of care in the existing homes.  

4.Legally mandated protocols for a Protective Home
Any victim is admitted or released from a Protective Home only by a ‘Court order’ and in case of a minor victim, by the legally competent body ‘Child Welfare Committee’(CWC). It is only through a Court Order or a CWC order that a parent or family is permitted to meet the victim.
Prajwala is perhaps one of the only organizations, which diligently follows this legally mandated protocol. Hundreds of advocates from Andhra Pradesh & Telangana can testify that.  
Authorized stakeholders regularly visit the Protective Home to prepare victims for court procedures including trial. The victims themselves have to appear before the court for recording their statement, identifying the accused and for the final trial. 
With the approval of the court, Prajwala Protective Home provides telephone access to victims within 24hrs of their being admitted in the home.
Prajwala Protective Home diligently practices all the Minimum Standards of Care as specified by GO MS 16 issued by Government of Telangana & Andhra Pradesh. The Assessment Report by competent authorities for license renewal submitted to the government will testify that.

5. Media & Protective Home
As per Sec 228 A of IPC, Sec 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and Sec 23 (2) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) identity disclosure of any adult or child victims of sex crime or sex trafficking is not permitted.
Prajwala’s Protective Homes are mandated by the law to ensure no victim (child or adult) living in the Protective Home is exposed to the media.
No journalist, local or international has been permitted to enter any of the Protective Homes that Prajwala manages.
On a case to case basis and with mutual respect, a few select journalists have visited the Prajwala Administrative Office and have mostly interacted with me. I reserve the right to chose whom I speak to and definitely the moment I know a person is prejudiced against me, I do not entertain that person.
The survivors released by court orders and now living independently are at liberty to speak to media. Many survivors involved in sensitizing the community on the dangers of sex trafficking are covered by the media during their public programs every month. The third Saturday of every month is observed as Swaraksha Day or  Anti Human Trafficking Day by the Government of Telangana and hundreds of survivors address public gatherings which is always covered by the media.    

6. Malicious unfounded allegations of violence
There are at least 30-40 survivors who are easily accessible directly to any media personnel every month without even my intervention. These survivor leaders (now reintegrated in the society) have made a choice to join the movement to combat sex trafficking and address large public gatherings all over the State of Telangana, every third Saturday of the month. They do not hide their faces or want to be anonymous and speak publicly in front of thousands, about the ordeal they have faced as a victim of sex trafficking.
So why did this journalist ignore all of them and found these seven anonymous women to speak with. Who are these seven anonymous women, where are they now and who is backing them to speak such malicious lies?
It is definitely not a victim, who has recovered and is now a survivor and safely reintegrated to the society. In all probability these are women who might have been admitted in our Protective Home and now who have gone back to prostitution.
Is it rocket science to understand that such women will defend their choices of going back to prostitution by defiling all the care and support provided to them? And if they are back with their pimps and criminal network of prostitution, they will only speak what each pimp/broker or trafficker wishes.
For every trafficker in this country, Prajwala Protective Home is hell for it takes away their revenue, destroys their business and crushes their industry.
Some times in a court you even see a newly rescued girl/woman crying and pleading before the Magistrate to send her to jail (this is at the behest of the traffickers). The reason for such a curious plea is that if you are sent to jail you can get bail and get back to prostitution/flesh trade. What a quick fix solution for the sex traffickers! Ironically the heading of the article also starts with this! 
Now come to the allegations made by two activist. We had three instances (2014, 2016, 2018) which is all duly reported to the Police, where young female traffickers posing as victims have infiltrated into the Protective Home with the one point agenda of creating large scale damage to the Home.
One such instance is quoted in this article where an anonymous professional working on women’s issues and an activist has met 13 women in the jail. These women were arrested on 17-10-2016, after a failed attempt to burn down one of the Protective Home on the night of 16-10-2016.
The case was registered, Cr No 472/2016 under Sections 147,148,307,324,427,342 &120 (B) r/w 149 IPC  by the Pahadi Shareef Police Station. 
While I don’t even want to comment on why this activist or the anonymous professional never sought my clarification or the Government’s till date on this matter. The CCTV footages which is the key evidence in this case, gives you the actual happening of the attack where these 13 women after 9 pm, when most of the other residents had retired for the day, went on to destroy and damage the Home, burnt down chairs and tables, broke laptops, attacked the kitchen and with the oil taken from there, tried to burn down one of the buildings and the gate. All this without any provocation, when my staff were closing down for the day!
It is beyond me currently to explain the deep damages of sex trafficking and sex crime on the body, mind and soul of a victim and what are the holistic efforts that assist a victim in the road to recovery to counter the half-baked comments being made in the article about the self-harm behavior of the victims or the psycho-therapeutic efforts of life-skills and livelihood training.
In due course when these issues will come before the court, I will be submitting all the evidences and also questioning the motive for anybody including an individual, an International Center or a prestigious newspaper to spread such cheap, malicious and vicious lies. What do they gain by defaming the Prajwala Model for Rehabilitation?
In Conclusion…
I take pride in saying that the care and protection provided in Prajwala is the best, for we stake our lives to ensure that each child or woman rescued from commercial sexual exploitation is taken care with compassion and empathy, provided all the immediate and long term support required to help them on to the road to recovery within the framework of the law.
Hundreds of my child survivors are now studying medicine, pharmacy, law, and management.  They study in reputed institutions. Thousands of adult survivors are reintegrated into the society, with viable economic options and a significant percentage of them are married with families of their own. Any human being who has visited any of our Protective Home can directly testify the standards of care we strive to maintain.

While I take this article, published in a reputed international newspaper, as a part of a larger conspiracy to destroy the anti trafficking mission, I wish to reiterate and reaffirm that this cannot deter or distract me or my colleagues from our mission.

It appears that the article attacks the Indian Anti Prostitution Law and the so called ‘Shelter-detention’. If anyone aspires to change a law, the right course of action is to go through the courts or the parliament and not discredit or defame the efforts of law abiding organizations like Prajwala.   

It is definitely shocking and anguishing for me as an individual to know that people/persons/International Institutions/International Papers will stoop to such levels to push their agenda; that grants are given to write a one sided, biased piece and there are also reputed papers to carry this story.

And finally, do you think the Indian and other Governments, State Governments, International Institutions, Funding Agencies, Individual Donors, Awards Committees, Judges, Police Officers, Civil Servants and the millions who support our mission for decades have not done their due diligence and only this journalist who has not even seen my Administrative Office, the seven anonymous women, the anonymous professional and two activist have done their diligence about my Protective Homes!!!

And now I want to see how many of them will carry my response to this story!