Kolkata: Central Government’s proposal to legalize prostitution resulted in a controversy in the state. People can be seen debating on whether or not legalizing prostitution will lead to an imbalance in the society.
The sex workers living in one of the largest red light areas of India, Sonagachi disagree with the common perception. They believe that if the government withdraws the ITPA (Illegal Trafficking Prevention Act) and legalizes prostitution, then it will save thousands of sex workers from the harassment of police and local pimps.
To know the real reason behind their demand of legalizing prostitution, NewsGram talked to some members of Durbar. They answered unanimously that they are labourers and they are working to sustain themselves, and this is reason enough for the government to either withdraw or amend the ITPA act.
Arnab Mitra: The government is planning to legalize prostitution. How will it benefit you if it is implemented?
Sephali Roy: We have five basic demands:
a. Basic Labour Righta.
b. Right to Governmental Health Scheme.
c. Pension to all sex workers.
d. Withdraw or amend the ITPA act.
e. Our children should have the right to the property of their mother, and the identity of their mother should be granted as their identity.
These necessary demands can only be fulfilled if the government legalizes prostitution.
Arnab Mitra: Do you think that the Government needs to withdraw the ITPA act immediately?
Purnima Chatterjee: At present, there is hardly any instance of trafficking in this red light area. So we are not doing any illegal business, and whatever we do is only to meet our basic needs. It is our request to the government to stop seeing us as criminals. We are humans too.
Arnab Mitra: Do you think that rape and molestation will be curbed if the government legalizes prostitution?
Chaya De: The instances of rapes only highlight the mental sickness of the society. It was there in the past and will be in the future. Nothing can curb the demons of the society.
Arnab Mitra: What steps have you taken from Durbar’s side to raise this issue?
Gita Das: In 2006, we first started our movement to demand basic labour rights. Now MPs from different parties have come forward to support our cause and we are hopeful that the Modi government will implement the act to legalize prostitution as soon as possible. We have high hopes with the ruling government as the power rests with them for now.
The act of prostitution is going on since ages and it’s still a surviving occupation for many. For lots of girls, it’s a harsh reality but there is very little that they can do about it. Many of the girls are forced into prostitution and some have to choose it because they have no other place to go. Although, prostitution is illegal in India but it is certainly prevalent in our society.
The Land of Kama Sutra
Due to India’s legacy in sex and prostitution, there are some of the largest and infamous red light areas where prostitution is a way of living. Such a place automatically becomes a hot spot for many other criminal activities too. According to a report, there is almost 10 million sex worker in India. The prime clientele of prostitutes includes migrant workers or people who are staying away from their home.
There are many cases where a girl turns into prostitution just for the sake of raising some money for their respective families. Some girls are lured into good jobs in big cities and then they are been sold off to pimps and brokers at different brothels. The news of abduction of girls are very common in India and then no one knows whereabouts of them. In very few cases, the police are able to locate the victim.
Even in some cases, parents sell their babies to earn some quick bucks for a very paltry sum. The red light areas in India are the only means of keeping the body and soul together for many of the sex workers.
Take a look at the list of such red light areas situated in India:
The place Sonagachi holds the title of Asia’s largest red light area which is located in Kolkata. Sonagachi is a mysterious place in itself. As per a survey, this place is home to almost 11,000 sex workers. The harsh reality of Sonagachi red light area is very hard to swallow. The Oscar-winning documentary, Born into Brothels, has brought out the very reality of this place.
Kamathipura stands second, only after Sonagachi in terms of the number of sex workers working at a place. It is also the oldest red light area of Mumbai. The dilapidated condition of this place will send shivers to anyone visiting here for the very first. The place also houses a beedi factory in its surrounding been owned by women. The place is quite famous due to its visitors like Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim.
Kamthipura is also known by the name of Grant Road’s Red light Area. But initially, Kamthipura was known as Lal Bazaar because of its workers. There the word Kamathis means workers and hence the place got its first name. The number of sex workers has reduced to only a few thousand as compared to when it was started.
Budhwar Peth, Pune
Budhwar Peth shortly follows the Sonagachi and Kamathipura in the prostitution business. There are expected five thousand of sex workers working in the shabby lanes of Budhwar Peth.Other than prostitution, the place is also known for being a hub for electronic goods and books.
The shady lights of this red light area make it more difficult to survive and lack of law enforcement agencies adds more agony to it.
G.B. Road, Delhi
Almost every person who has ever visited Delhi must have come across the name of G.B. Road. The place is Delhi’s largest red light area and is quite famous for the hundreds of brothels along the streets.
The place also houses many vehicle parts, wholesale dealers. So, anyone who knows about this place is not necessarily related to prostitution.
Chaturbhujsthan is a red light area in Muzaffarpur and interestingly, this place is located right next to an old temple. People believe that this setup has been in continuation since ages and thus it makes sense as to why prostitution is still going strong.
Itwari is a quite popular place among the sex workers and the criminals in Nagpur. In most of the red light areas, criminal activities and prostitution go side by side and this place is no different. The place is also known by the name Ganga Jamuna.
This red light area is intact since ancient times and this place is more like a village rather than a locality. But in the past couple of years, this place is seen losing its sheen due to lack of the number of sex workers. The village is home to many cheap brothels been run by the locals.
Goa being a holiday destination is supposed to cater the prostitution business and getting customers over here is not that difficult. Baina is a well-known red light area in Goa. Here, pimps bring the customer from bus stands, railway stations and markets, after that the deal is been made.
Although in 2004, the government raided all the properties of Baina beach and tried to root out the prostitution business but still it’s prevalent.