PUDUCHERRY: A spa owner and around 40 customers were booked under the POCSO Act after the police rescued a minor girl involved in the flesh trade reportedly operating at the spa. A week ago, teams from the Orleanpet and D Nagar police stations searched a few spas in their limits and found prostitution taking place in three spas at Maraimalai Adigal Road, Anna Nagar, and Kamaraj Road. The police arrested eight spa owners and some customers. They had also rescued 10 women involved in the flesh trade. Later, police found that one of the rescued women was a 17-year-old.
“During the search, she gave her wrong age, and later during the inquiry, we found she is a minor. After taking a statement from her, we filed a case under the POCSO Act against the spa owner and also against the customers, who came to the spa while she was involved in the flesh trade. We are checking the CCTV camera footage of the spa and call records of the owner to identify the customers. According to the girl’s statement, nearly 40 customers came to the spa,” said a police source from the Orleanpet police station.
Another police source added the girl worked there for more than two weeks. She was recruited for regular works but was forced into prostitution by the owner. Police sources refused to give further details as the case is under investigation. Meanwhile, the case went viral on social media since Saturday and has received condemnation from various social and women’s rights activists.
Speaking to TNIE, a member of a civil society organisation, said, “Firstly, these spas should be brought under the control of Tourism Department instead of municipalities, which can only issue trade license for them. Before that tourism department should form a committee, including officials from police, revenue, and local administration and that committee should issue the license after verifying the details, place, and qualifications of the applicant.”
He further said recently Delhi government issued strict guidelines for spa and massage centres, including on massage therapists and clients of the same gender. He also said the government should issue licenses only to properly trained and licensed therapists.
A senior police official source from Puducherry Police Department said, “During searches, we found many spa licenses issued by municipalities had expired and some didn’t even have any license or permission. Some had fake qualification certificates to run spa. We informed about this to municipalities and asked them to inspect the spas in their limit.”
According to sources, a few police officials had contact with the spa owners, who managed to escape during the search as they got prior information. They also got support from those officials to run the flesh trade. So, after transferring a few officials and policemen, these searches were conducted. Departmental inquiry on the police officials involved in the case has also been initiated.