A couple who ran a shelter for women and girls in northern India have been arrested, after being accused of trafficking its residents for sex, and the discovery that many are missing.
Girija Tripathi and her husband Mohan Tripathi were arrested after a police search of the home in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria Town, prompted after a 10-year-old girl scaled a wall and escaped on Sunday night. She alleged to police that men frequented the home in the evenings, taking four or five women with them after negotiating with the Tripathis, and returning them late at night. The residents were also forced to clean the complex, she said.
The local police superintendent, Rohan P. Kanay, told reporters “wrong things were done with the girls between the age of 15 to 18,” adding that the initial investigation also revealed 18 of the 42 registered residents were missing.
“The girl who escaped had been staying at the home for the last three years. She said they treated her like a servant. She also told us many girls were taken away in cars at night. They returned in the morning and cried through the day. Adoptions were also happening in an illegal manner here. We are looking into it and searching for the missing girls,” Kanay said.
The Tripathis were arrested when they were unable to provide any satisfactory explanation.
An investigation is also underway as to why the shelter was still operating, after its license was revoked in 2017. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Women and Child Welfare Minister of Uttar Pradesh, confirmed that the shelter had lost its accreditation and was operating illegally. “The case is pending in high court,” she said.
“The police should clarify as to why they handed over 930 women to the shelter house in the last one year if we were running illegally,” Girija Tripathi responded, whilst denying all the allegations against her and her husband.
The arrests follows hard on the heels of a case, in which more than 30 girls, as young as 7, were allegedly raped and tortured at a government-funded shelter in the eastern Indian city of Muzaffarpur, across the course of several months.
Anand Kumar, of the Uttar Pradesh Police, said the residents of the Deoria shelter would all be sent for medical examinations for “sexual harassment” as well as being interviewed by police.