First in India: Brothel Owners To Get Life Sentence for Child Trafficking

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First in India: Brothel Owners To Get Life Sentence for Child Trafficking

Two Indian brothel owners, Pancho Singh and his wife Chhaya Devi received life imprisonment for trafficking, rape and sexual abuse of children under different sections of the protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act and the Indian Penal Code – in a country where less than two in five trafficking cases get passed through the walls of the courtroom.

Prosecutor Sunil Kumar awarded the sentence to the couple, who ran the brothel in Gaya, Eastern Bihar in association with the additional district and sessions judge Sachchidanand Singh. Indeed, this is a major milestone achieved in the trajectory of trafficking cases in India, but this has only been possible due to some “brave survivors”, whose absolute courage and sheer grit gave these perpetrators the maximum punishment under prevalent anti-trafficking laws.

It is said, once the girls are rescued, they go back to their homes and they never come back to testify. Reasons: intimidation and threats from the traffickers, questioning eyes of the society and inner fear and anguish to again face their abusers– sitting in the same, breathing the same air as that of her trafficker is in itself a very fearful thought!

Reasons for India’s Low Conviction Rates

More to this, in India, only one in four rape cases ended up in conviction in the year 2016, lowest since 2012, according to National Crime Data.

The conviction rate for rape trials were 26.4%, 24.2% and 27.1% in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Some of the reasons for such low conviction rates are:

  • Victims withdrawing statements,
  • Delays in registering a first information report (FIR),
  • Erroneous investigation,
  • Indifferent prosecutors,
  • Inconsistencies and contradictions in witness statements,
  • Insensitive judges, and
  • Rigorous cross-examination of even minor children by sapient criminal (defense) lawyers.

“Declining conviction rate in rape cases ordinarily means lesser number of registered cases could be proved in court, which also means that police is not able to do good investigations or that victims are not getting quality legal representation during trial. Whatever may be the reason, declining conviction causes concern and must be examined for possible reasons,” Anant Kumar Asthana, a Delhi-based activist and lawyer shared.

Change is Here?

Four of nine girls who were rescued from the Gaya brothel in 2015 came back and testified in the courtroom the kind of horrors they had to go through at the hands of the brothel owner couple. Dreadful stories of forced abortion, rapes and even how girls were driven to commit suicide spilled out in the courtroom. Among the girls, one of the teenager was from West Bengal – at the tender age of 11, she had to have sex with at least 20 men a day regularly for three years! Another girl won a bravery award in 2017 for identifying one of the two traffickers at a railway station, which helped bust the whole trafficking racket. The brothel owners not only received life imprisonment but was also levied a heavy fine. Moreover, the court awarded a compensation of 4, 50, 000 INR to each of the four victims for their remarkable grit and true bravery and 3, 00, 000 INR to other victims. This initiative might encourage more and more girls to come forward, shed their fear and speak out the truth against their abusers.

According to NGOs, out of 20 million commercial sex workers in India, 16 million women and girls are victims of sex trafficking, alone.

According to Indian government data, less than half of the more than 8,000 human trafficking cases reported in 2016 were filed in court by the police and the conviction rate in cases that did go to trial was hardly 28 per cent.

But How Aware Are You?

Raising awareness is crucial and one of the key factors to combat trafficking. This is why we have created a set of murals for each city along with a chatbot narrative, including Kolkata – it makes the process of educating the public more engaging and interactive. The Missing Mural Walk – it’s a 6 city public art project with a sole aim to start a dialogue with urban India about the perplexities of trafficking through a Facebook chatbot.

To best understand survivors’ trafficking experience, open our Facebook page <> and send us a message. Rest Champa, the chatbot will take you on a tour around.