“I AM A PROSTITUTE! I earn my living and take care of my family who know my profession, because they Forced me into it.”
Prostitution is a taboo in a culture rich country like India. At the same time, it displays the hypocritical nature of India where Prostitution is spread all across the country as a full-fledged business. Although illicit and inappropriate as per our society norms, many men flock around these prostitution centers every now and then to get sexual favors in exchange of money.
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Every major city in the country has a full-fledged neighborhood that is full of illegal brothels and prostitution centers, most popularly known as Red Light areas. Some of the most popular red light areas in India include Sonagachi in Kolkata, Kamathipura in Mumbai, and G.B. Road in New Delhi that houses thousands of sex workers.
The major concern against these prostitution centers or brothels is not morality but the exploitation of women living there who are forced into prostitution either by someone they know or out of misery. The worst case scenario is when most of the women are forced into this business of selling sexual favors by their loved ones including parents, spouse, relatives or neighbors.
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Reasons Why Women End Up In Prostitution
According to a survey conducted in 1988 by All Bengal Women’s Union in Calcutta (it was before it was renamed to Kolkata), out of 160 sex workers 137 women were introduced to the business of sex trade by agents.
The breakdown of these agents is shocking as 80% of them were not traffickers but known people such as neighbors, relatives, etc. Also, 76% of these agents were female while only 24% comprised of males.
The breakdown of sex trade agents as per the study is as follows:
- Neighbor in connivance with parents: 7
- Neighbors as pimps (guardians not knowing): 19
- Aged sex workers from same village or locality: 31
- Unknown person/accidental meeting with pimp: 32
- Mother/sister/near relative in the profession: 18
- Lover giving false hope of marriage or job and selling to brothel: 14
- Close acquaintance giving false hope of marriage or job: 11
- “Husband” (not legally married): 3
- Husband (legally married): 1
Few of these women ended up in prostitution because of misery or to take care of the financial needs of their family while many were forced or conned into this business in the name of offering a good job, marriage or better life. Many girls in their teens are brought from Nepal as well as many North-East regions of India and sold into prostitution.
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Around 40% of the 484 girls rescued during major raids in brothels of Mumbai in 1996 were brought from Nepal. Many Nepalese girls under the age of 14 are even today sold into prostitution in India. While these women were kidnapped and forced into prostitution, there are tribes such as Bedia and “Bachara”, communities from the western part of Madhya Pradesh, follow a custom where the eldest daughter of the family is sent into prostitution while the girl’s father or brother work as a pimp for her.
Another age old system called, “Chukri System” is also one of the main reasons for women ending up as a prostitute to pay off the debts of their family. This is a type of bonded labor where the girls are forced to work as a prostitute without pay for a year or longer as per the debts they owe to the brothel owner for food, clothes, make-up and other living expenses.
Most often, our Indian society caste prostitutes away considering them inferior or a taboo when it is a clear fact that the society itself created them. Also, to be taken note here is the fact that prostitution is not something created by modern India, it was well prevalent in the history as well.
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Let’s Look At The History!
Those who connect prostitution with our culture and consider it as a taboo must know that it prevailed in the ancient era too. In those times, the trend of Nagarvadhu was practiced widely by the rich who asked these Nagarvadhus (Brides of Town) to sing and dance for entertainment. Although, Nagarvadhus were respected like a Queen or Goddess in the town, she was a courtesan or prostitute who pleased only the rich with her singing and dancing.
In southern part of India, there was another custom that’s still prevalent in modern India called “Devadasi”. However, whether these “Devadasi” women indulged themselves into any sort of prostitution activities or not is quite unclear even today. These women were termed to be God’s servant who served their life for the temples. Many historians believed that these women were turned into prostitution as the temples became poor when invaders attacked India and started destroying the temples. In short, prostitution isn’t something that started spreading in the modern India, it was in custom since the beginning.
No, I am not favoring prostitution as a part of our culture but what I am trying to say is that it’s the society that needs to be blamed rather than those women who indulge themselves into the sex trade.
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Rather than considering them as a taboo, the society should accept that as part of our community and help them recover from this exploitation.
Rather than casting them away from the society, we must accept them into our community and help them raise their kids with quality education and proper nourishment, so they don’t end up in the same industry as their mothers.
So, Can we Really Make a Difference?? Let’s see what their Future beholds.
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