Sister Leona of the Domestic Workers' Forum is also a lawyer. She keeps a notebook which is covered with inky squiggles detailing cases of maidservants who were raped, beaten, otherwise abused, or placed in a situation from which they had to be rescued.
"We survey the field and have a team of animators. They check for non-payment of dues and exploitation reports. If they're beaten or not paid, with the help of the police, we rescue the girls. If they want to continue working, we get them registered and placed properly in a safe home. We also meet each Sunday after mass and give them a chance to tell us if there are problems. Have also started self-help groups amongst the girls in rural areas to give them an option to not migrate. Also training them in marketing and other skills. Teach them to read and write and give them other non-formal education. At least 100 distress cases each year in Delhi. In June alone, we rescued 15 girls approximately. At least 3-4 turn out to be rape cases."
She starts flipping through the notebook, talking all the while.
"Once, we investigated the case of a mother and child. The mother came looking for her son, and was placed in a home herself and her daughter was placed elsewhere, against her wishes. The mother was trapped. She couldn't leave the household and the agent was nowhere to be found. Coincidentally, he happened to get arrested in a rape case elsewhere and the agency was closed down. The agent is in jail now. But there are many hundreds of placement agents. They have to be registered, but many aren't. Also, they often use saints' names and put religious pictures on the walls to help create the false impression of piousness and security. Many of the girls are tribal christians and they get taken in. Often, it is the placement agent who first rapes the girl."
She flips a few more pages.
"In May-June, there was the case of Akash placement agency. The agent had raped two of the three minor girls he brought down. The case is in Rohini court."
Another page flipped.
"In Jaipur, there was a government official's son, accused of rape. They've been threatening me, asking me to withdraw the case, wanting to reach a 'compromise'. We refused, because the girl also wanted to see him punished. She was raped 4 times and when she got pregnant, forced to undergo an abortion. She was kept locked up inside the house."
A few pages later,
"Another 14-year-old was raped in Lal Quarter."
The page turned.
"And one 17-year-old was killed. They said she got burnt by accident or committed suicide, but when we went there, we saw that only her lower half of the body was burnt. Her hair was not even singed, which would not have happened if she's burnt herself. We suspect she was raped and murdered, and burnt, to cover up the evidence. It was a rich family... we didn't get police support so couldn't get enough evidence together."
And turned again.
"An 18-year-old was kicked around badly by her employer. He was an army officer."
"One 12-year-old was locked up by her employers in Lajpatnagar. When we went to rescue her, they claimed she wasn't in the house. Wouldn't let us come in. We stuck around, sat on the stairs outside, and kept saying that we just wanting to meet the girl. Somehow, we managed to persude them to let us step inside. Then we said, we're taking her away. The employers said that if she was leaving, she had to leave all her old clothes and even a battered old suitcase, which had been given to her. They even refused to give her a glass of water before she left, and refused to pay her. They sent her off without one rupee."
A 12-year-old. Taking away her old hand-me-downs. People who own kothis in Lajpatnagar.