We’re republishing this as part of our 25th anniversary series featuring favorite stories from our archives. This story by Dee Brookshire about campaign to free sex slaves in Mumbai’s red-light district appeared in ANM’s magazine in 2011.
“I stood in a sealed tank filled with water up to my neck. My head plunged into the water every time I nodded off to sleep. Eventually I would drown. Instead of death, I chose submission.”
“They didn’t give me any food or water for days. The thirst was maddening. I gave in.”
“I woke up in a locked cage. The room was dark. Snakes crawled over my body. I screamed over and over. They would not take the snakes away until I obeyed.”
These are the words of girls who were trafficked into sexual slavery to the largest red-light district in the world. It is called Kamathipuri, part of Mumbai (Bombay).
Kamathipuri was set up by the British as a “comfort zone” for their troops. When the British left, it was taken over by the Indian mafia. Today it is a multi-billion dollar sex business.
Enter K.K. Deveraj.
Born into an Indian Hindu family in 1952, Deveraj’s sole goal was to become a rich man. God had other plans.
Deveraj completed his studies and flew to the oil fields of Iran to make his fortune. While there, he became lonely so he agreed to attend a Bible study to meet some friends. The love he experienced among the Christians drew him to consider their faith.
When war broke out in Iran, he went to Lebanon, where exiled Iranian Christians won him to the Lord. Getting acquainted with Teen Challenge while he was there, he felt burdened to return to his own country to start a similar work.
He returned to India and enrolled in a Bible college. He later married Lathija, started his family, and with their support in 1990 he bought a one-way ticket to Mumbai to reach out to the residents of Kamathipuri.
He walked the streets and searched the faces. Ignoring the stench, he bent down and picked worms from the sores of a drug addict. Children begged as they kept vigil over their mother who was dying of AIDS. He heard stories of young girls locked in cages for years unless they were “working.”
How to begin to stop sex slavery?
What could one ordinary man do? He cried out, “God, where do I begin?”
Young children were drugged and put on platforms under the very beds where their sex-slave mothers performed. Countless other kids roamed the streets. Most of the young boys sniffed glue. The older boys curled in fetal positions from harder drugs.
“I’ve got to help these children!” Deveraj screamed at no one in particular.
He opened an overnight shelter. Kids came. They played, ate, and slept. Deveraj told them, “Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life!” Deveraj’s ministry developed slowly.
He called it Bombay Teen Challenge (BTC) with the consent of American Teen Challenge leaders. In fact, he is on the international board of Teen Challenge and was asked to speak at their 50th anniversary international convention in 2008, though he has no direct funding from them.
Today BTC has nearly 200 workers, most of whom Deveraj has rescued over the years. They have all accepted Jesus and desire to follow Him. These “new creatures” operate a church in the heart of the red-light district, safe homes for prostituted women and their children, a home for AIDS orphans, a counseling center and health clinic, a rehab center, mobile food and medical vans, a halfway house, and a vocational center.
Anita and Tara, former brothel owners, now oversee homes for girls and daughters of sex slaves. Kayum, the first drug addict Deveraj took into his home, is now a missionary in the Indian state of Punjab. Stephen, a cripple who dragged himself along the filthy streets, now directs the counseling center and health clinic and leads the church’s worship.
One rescued girl said, “Uncle [as Deveraj is fondly called] saved my life and gave me a hope and a home. I met Jesus and His love through the ministry. They helped me study and gave me medicine when I was sick.”
Deveraj told ANM, “We treat our people as costly pearls. They may be dirty on the outside, but we are reaching the real pearl within.” Deveraj gives God the glory for all that has been accomplished, but he realizes that he has only been treating the symptoms. He is now ready to attack the cause.
Attacking the cause
He’s listened to the stories of how young girls were drugged, tricked, and sold into sexual slavery, sometimes by their own family members. He’s heard how they were “broken” so they would be willing to “service” up to 10-20 customers a day. Innocent pre-teen girls told him how they were promised good jobs that would help them provide for their poor families. Instead, they were sold for exorbitant amounts because of the belief that having sex with a virgin would cure AIDS and STDs. More than 1 million children have fallen to this fate in India. Deveraj has seen and heard enough!
At the ministry’s 20th anniversary in November 2010 he launched a campaign called STOP SEX SLAVERY. With determined passion Deveraj states, “I must do it! We must do it! The church must do it!”
He doesn’t just want to heal those haunted by memories and nightmares; he wants the trafficking of girls stopped altogether—not only in Kamathipuri, but throughout the world!
“I want to create an outrage!” he told ANM.
U.S. Congressmen Joseph Pitts, Todd Aiken, and Trent Frank are three of the many who support the momentum that Deveraj is building. High officials in England’s Parliament also share his vision. He now has the backing he needs to warn those who are getting rich from this evil, “You will stop this insanity or I will expose everything!”
Deveraj is not afraid of the repercussions. “If I go down, I will take this atrocity down with me!”
Neon billboards will soon flash this message around Mumbai. Documentaries of the girls’ appalling stories are being collected. Alarming statistics, books, and pictures are being assembled.
Cage is a photographic essay of three girls abducted into sex slavery. The book has been given to several high-level officials and has been mailed to Christian leaders in more than 100 countries.
“We will use all forms of media to optimize our communications approach to alert the world. To open the eye, to speak to the heart, to enter the head, to quicken the pulse, to roll off the tongue, to stir the senses, to stay in the mind, and to create action—step by step, voice by voice—to break the chain link by link—to set the captives free,” Devaraj declared.
Twenty-five years after we started partnering with native ministries to make a difference among the least and lost, like these children in Middle East countries, we are closer than ever to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and lived out among every people group in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
There’s more to be done, and just $25 a month can equip another missionary.