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'Pimps were gathering to stop us' - Norwich man's fight to free Indian sex slave

PUBLISHED: 14:21 29 December 2018

Mark Little on a rescue mission to support children in Thailand. Photo: Mark Little

Mark Little on a rescue mission to support children in Thailand. Photo: Mark Little

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An anti-slavery activist from Norfolk came face-to-face with a gang of Indian pimps during a charity visit to one of the world's most exploited cities.

'YouCanFreeUs' helps victims of forced sex slavery access safe accomodation and training in Mumbai. Photo: YouCanFreeUs'YouCanFreeUs' helps victims of forced sex slavery access safe accomodation and training in Mumbai. Photo: YouCanFreeUs

Mark Little, from Norwich St Edmund Rotary Club, first visited India’s capital, Mumbai, 17 years ago and was so haunted by the brazen exploitation he witnessed that he began a mission to raise awareness about the country’s illegal slave trade.

Last year the Rotary club began a fundraising drive to buy NGO YouCanFreeUs a new bus to transport women and girls between safe houses in Mumbai.

After hitting the £20,000 goal in October, Mr Little travelled to the city to see the charity’s work first-hand.

Mr Little said the horrors of sexual exploitation were laid bare during a charity night visit to the notorious Kamathipura red light district.

Armed with Christmas presents and guitars, Mr Little and outreach workers from YouCanFreeUs entered the brothels to deliver gifts and medicine to the exploited girls.

As the group entered a particularly well-guarded brothel, they came across a young woman named Pinky, cradling her toddler daughter.

Mr Little said they made an attempt to help the young woman leave but as they got close to moving her to safety, a gang of pimps began to surround them.

The activist said: “We realised the pimps were gathering to stop us so we had to abandon the attempt.

“Whilst none of these victims of commercial sexual exploitation are physically chained up, they are still unable to escape from the clutches of their slave masters. They just have to say, things like ‘if you don’t do as I ask, I am going to kill your mother because I know where she lives’ or ‘if you defy me again, I will dispose of your child’.”

Despite the harrowing experience, Mr Little said visits to safe houses and rehabilitation centres in following days were “a real joy”.

As a treat for the survivors supported by YouCanFreeUs, the Norwich Rotary bus was used to drive the women and girls to a country club hotel for a luxury stay.

Mr Little said: “The visit was one of the most amazing, heart-warming and emotional six days of my life.

“Not all that I experienced was sweetness and light but there is love and care emanating from the staff who support and rehabilitate those survivors.”

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