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Jeana Masters-Publico – India – Freedom Firm

Greetings again from India! This week has been awesome. I am adjusting to this whole different world, and finding humor in the stares I get while walking down the street or halls of the court. I am quite a novelty here, to say the least. Despite the fact that Pune is a major university city, some even call it “The Oxford of the East,” there still isn’t a strong western influence, so seeing an American is somewhat of a rarity.

I had the opportunity to go to the courthouse this week and see how their system works. Attorneys are called “advocates” here and they wear special white ties, white shirts, black pants and a blazer every day (even in the 95 degree non A/C courthouse!). Going to the courthouse was like stepping back in time- there were no computers, they keep their files tied up in large cloth bundles and stack them several feet high. The advocates have to come to court each day to see when they will need to appear and read from a posted roster when their cases have been scheduled.

The front of the courthouse was beautiful; vines covered the building and hung down creating a bright green archway. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the courthouse but it was a shock to see the state in which they maintain the buildings. Dirt and dust cake all the floors and walls. They chew a tobacco derived substance called “Pan” and spit the red goo inside the courthouse (and most everywhere else). Needless to say the smell was less than pleasant.

A successful raid was conducted on Monday evening. Five girls were rescued from a brothel and the brothel keeper was arrested. One of the girls rescued was particularly young. The local newspaper ran the story and it was another small victory for the team and justice. Now we will follow up with the case by assisting in the prosecution of the brothel keeper and providing aftercare for the rescued girls, making sure they return home or to a safe house.

This week I also started on my major assignment for the summer. Freedom Firm is going to be filing a writ pleading to the High Court in Bombay to make some changes in how they address cases against traffickers. Freedom Firm, after obtaining several convictions last year, has seen an astounding increase of absconding or missing defendants who are out on bail. The courts move slow here, are quick to grant bail and then the accused go absconding. In the pursuit of justice, the system must acknowledge this trend and do something about it. Hopefully we will complete the writ during my time here and will be able to file it in the High Court by July. Please pray for guidance for us as we draft!

Monday I will be traveling to Ooty, to the other Freedom Firm site. Ooty is also where the aftercare center is located. In the aftercare center the girls are counseled, taught marketable skills, and are given a chance at a life free of the bondage of the flesh trade. I am excited to meet the girls and see that side of the process.

Until next week!