By Divish Gupta:
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One among those millions is a lady living with her 20-25 co-workers in a workplace situated very close to New Delhi Railway Station. She is 41, working hard for the past 26 years to earn a living. Like any other mother, her dream is to ensure a better future for her children. She earns enough to provide good education to them but somehow, this is not enough. She has to constantly make efforts to keep her shadow away from them. The day she fails, all her efforts will turn into dust. Do you know why?
Because she is a sex worker at one of the brothels in G.B. Road. We call her prostitute, or a whore but she finds them objectionable. We portray her as immoral, unchaste or obscene but she disagrees. We say that such women ruin our social values but she feels that the society is responsible for ruining her past, present and future. She was married at an age of 14. Within a year, her husband sold her to a brothel for a meagre amount because her parents were not able to meet the dowry demands. Her husband told her parents that she died. They believed him. At an age when children used to play in open grounds, she was locked in a small room to serve customers.
When she was 19, she took a brave decision. With two small girls born during her time at the brothel, she decided to go back to her parents. It was not easy for her to tell truth to the parents, but she said it. To support her poor family, she started working in a farmland. In our society, powerful dominates the weak and the weak has no choice but to remain content under the suppression. It was too obvious for the farm owner that a 19 year old girl coming from Delhi with two little fatherless babies could only be a prostitute. For him, she was not a labour; she was an opportunity. He raped her. She remained silent. She had to choose between selling her body to a client and losing out her soul to this rapist. She chose the less undesirable option and came back to brothel.
She is not the only one who decides to leave the brothel but eventually comes back. In 105 brothels located at G.B. Road, there are around 5,000 sex workers who are facing the consequences of hypocrisy prevailing in our society. Once a prostitute, always a prostitute. They never had a choice. Neither to enter the sex industry nor to leave it. We put a stamp on their face and do not accept them in our society even if they are willing to keep their past behind. But why don’t we accept them? It’s not the morality. It’s our fear. Because brothels can show the true picture of the so-called social and moral values of our society. We visit those brothels in night to satisfy our needs but we can’t accept it in the daylight. Also, if you think that only uneducated labourers or such farm owners go to brothels, you are living in a utopian world. G.B. Road has plenty of customers during the lunch timings of offices in the vicinity which shows the duplicity and inequality prevailing in our society.
After coming to brothel, she gave birth to a boy. She didn’t want her children to have the same childhood as hers. She worked hard to earn money and sent her children to hostels, far away from the dark life of G. B. Road. Today, both of her daughters are married and her son is about to finish his schooling. Her daughters’ parents-in-law are unaware of her profession. The day they get to know about her work, her daughter will be facing the same situation which she did 26 years ago.
Adding to their woes, our government has done almost nothing to bring these workers out of their situation. There is a law since 1956, ITPA, to prevent trafficking. In the act, sex work is not prohibited but it penalizes specific activities related to sex work. Brothels are made illegal because they lead to trafficking but even two sex workers are not allowed to live and work together. It is obvious that a woman who is in such a vulnerable situation that she has to force herself into prostitution can never perform it individually. She is left with no other option but to enter a brothel to feed herself and her children. The laws are not encouraging her to leave the profession but to do it illegally. A sex worker is forced to hide her activities and seek security under the organization of brothels as our legal system has failed to protect her rights. This leads to more cases of sexually transmitted diseases among them and acts of unreported criminal violence.
To curb trafficking, government has made it difficult to execute sex work. But instead of keeping a check on trafficking, it has made the life of sex workers even worse. Prostitution has grown 17 times in the past 15 years. G.B. Road is completely illegal but still it runs in front of our eyes. Brothels at G.B. Road give a bribe of more than 1 million rupees to allow them to function. Traffickers are selling girls at even higher prices, buyers are still buying them, pockets of police is getting heavier in the process but no one is giving attention to 3 million sex workers in India living a life of negligence.
We gave them no rights to raise their voice against the exploitation they face. We gave them no rights to leave prostitution. We gave them no rights to demand for better working conditions. We are completely correct at our stand and we will not allow them to spread filth and dirt among us. Because they are not humans, they are prostitutes. And who are we?
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This article is based on the interviews that the writer had during his research internshipÂ in Centre for Civil Society on economics of sex workers at G.B. Road. He is thankful to the organization for bringing him closer to the reality and to the sex workers and brothel owners for greeting him so well.
P.S.: Everything is grey in this world. Upcoming posts will expose you to different colours of their life.[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Divish Gupta is a student of Electrical Engineering in IIT Delhi. He is passionate about travelling, meeting strangers, photography and dramatics. He has keenÂ interest in sustainable socio-economic development of underprivileged communities and sees his future in it. He strongly believes in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”Â .[/box]