A lawmaker and former education minister of India was arrested for the rape of a 16-year-old girl - a leap to the country's crackdown on human trafficking closely watched by anti-slavery activists.
The arrest of Atanasio Monserrate, an independent legislator in Goa's assembly, came after the girl reported to the police that her stepmother and another woman sold her to him. Monserrate reportedly drug and rape her.
"We have charged him with various offences. These include drugging, sexual assault of a minor and trafficking," a police officer privy of the investigation.
"I don't have figures, but he could be the first lawmaker along with the girl's mother to be charged with human trafficking," he added,
Monserrate, a former member of main opposition Congress Party, denied the charges in which he accused his political opponents of being behind in the conspiracy.
India is home to more than 14 million victims of slavery, ranging from bonded labor to prostitution, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index.
Activists in Goa said there could be thousands of women and children from Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and from other Indian states that were duped with the western coastal state, famed for its palm-fringed beaches and night life and ended up being exploited.
The girl who happened to be Monserrate's constituent in St. Cruz narrated to the police her agonizing life with the lawmaker. She was duped to work for him, but he kept her confined, gave her drinks laced with drugs and raped her several times.
Police gave no specific amount of the buy-out, but the girl herself admitted it reach $75,000.
Section 370, enacted after the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in December 2012, broadens the definition of trafficking to include the buying or selling of a person as a slave and carries a jail term of up to 7 years.
National Crime Records Bureau data shows that in its first year, 720 cases out of a total of 5,466 human trafficking-related cases were registered under Section 370 in 2014.