"What would happen if someone came to the red light area and just paid off all the girls' debts and pulled them out of trafficking?" This is the question I asked Aruna Project founder, Ryan Berg, during a rush hour taxi drive across Mumbai. (There's plenty of time for conversation while commuting in Mumbai since some residents travel more than 3 hours one-way to work)
Ryan proceeded to explain the difficulties in rescuing women:
1) If the women don't make their own decision you're just telling them what to do. The Aruna Project wants to empower women to choose to leave by their own volition. Otherwise they're just trading one master for another.
2) If the traffickers are paid to let the girls go then that "buy out" money will simply go toward buying new girls to fill the void of the ones who have left. The Aruna Project has decided that they will not payoff the debt that women "owe" their captors. The women either pay it off themselves or simply flee without paying.
3) If there is no plan for employment for the women once they leave the brothels they will flounder on the outside and likely return to the only thing they know--even if it means continued abuse. This is why Aruna Project has partner organizations in the Red Light Area who are spreading the word that there are quality jobs waiting for them if they decide they want to be rescued. The partner organizations also offer job skills training such as sewing during afternoons--about the only time the women aren't with clients.
Although I was disappointed that it wouldn't be possible or wise to just storm the brothels to gather all the women and flee to a better life I was glad that there are people who have figured out the best methods for rescue. It may take longer than I'd like, but the end result is a rescued woman living a free and sustainable life of hope.
Women who are currently stuck in trafficking are learning the skill of sewing so they can become employed and leave the Red Light Area behind.