Sonagachi is one of Calcutta’s largest red light districts – narrow alleys, lined with small ‘apartments’ and corner stores form a confusing and nightmarish maze. The buildings lean into the street, the roads are crowded, it’s hot. The city seems to want to eat itself. Sonagachi is one of the very few places in India where women have a higher street profile than men. That’s because most of them are prostitutes. Approximately 9000 women, many of them trafficked into the country from Bangladesh or Nepal, work in Sonagachi. Around 60.000 more sex workers are active across Calcutta.
In overcrowded India things don’t come in small measures. Two and a half million women and
children (around 500.000 prostitutes in India are under 16) are working in the country’s sex industry.
More than 5 million people are already HIV positive. Governments, both local and national, do little
to tackle the increasing risk of a large-scale AIDS epidemic. Large red light areas like Sonagachi are
at the centre of a problem that may soon spiral out of control and affect millions of people in Bengal
and the neighbouring state of Bihar. Sex workers are socially shunned and prostitution is illegal,
which makes the women in Sonagachi extremely susceptible to extortion, blackmail, rape or murder
by local gangsters, pimps and the police.
Byte: Sudeshna Basu Mukharjee, Sociologist
Byte: Pinki, Sex worker
“I am living at this place as a mother no one wants to live. I want to make my children’s future bright , When we’ll get older then our children will not going to support us.”
Byte: Juhi Tamang, Teacher
“My mother does not want me to join this field. Till the time I can do work hard, I’ll do.”