A 16-year-old girl who was allegedly forced into prostitution was rescued from a residential apartment in New Town on Tuesday, police said.
Two women and a man, who were allegedly running the sex trafficking racket from a private residence, have been arrested and sent to judicial custody.
The victim, who had dropped out of school in Class VIII, was living with her grandparents because her parents were separated. According to an officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate, she was “forced into the trade because of economic hardships”.
The police said Suparna Mondal, 42, Abhijit Mondal, 37, and Payel Heera, 19, who were allegedly running the racket in a two-room apartment in New Town, were arrested during the raid.
“The main accused, Suparna Mondal, was responsible for striking deals with customers and used her rented house as a location to exploit minor girls,” a police officer said on Wednesday.
The accused have been charged under various sections of the IPC dealing with trafficking and prostitution, among others.
If convicted, they can be jailed for up to 10 years under these sections.
Charges were also filed under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act.
The girl was rescued by the special branch of Biddhannagar Police Commissionerate, who were assisted by International Justice Mission (IJM), an NGO that supports the government in rescuing minors from trafficking rackets.
“The girl said a friend had taken her to New Town. The friend, too, was a minor girl,” said a police officer.
IJM officials said that a recent study on trafficking indicated that children were being sold in “unsuspecting regular neighbourhoods” and not in conventional brothels.
There have been instances where people have let out rooms or a portion of their house to run prostitution rackets for a couple of hours.
The girl on Tuesday was rescued from a standalone apartment building. “She was being forced into prostitution for the last two years. Over the last eight to 10 months she was being groomed by one of the accused to travel to distant cities for prostitution,” said Saji Philip, director of operations, IJM, Calcutta.
The girls usually are lured, threatened or blackmailed and are forced to continue in the trade, said an IJM official.
“Usually school drop outs are targeted because of their poor economic background. The traffickers also use the social media network to contact both customers and minors. Social media helps them to show photos to clients and work in a clandestine manner. Once the girls are into it, it gets difficult for them to find an exit route. They continue to get exploited,” Philip said.