India’s prostitution villages | DW Documentary

India’s prostitution villages | DW Documentary

Sex work is a way of life for thousands of women in marginalized communities in certain parts of rural India. For many, it is the only way to make money – also due to the Indian caste system and centuries-old prejudices which make it difficult for the families to escape poverty. But winds of change are blowing.

In certain Indian villages, sex work is, in a sense, inherited. Mothers and grandmothers have already worked in the same trade. In the past, they mostly belonged to ethnic groups that worked mainly as performers. The British colonial power criminalized them, and to this day it is especially difficult for the men of these ethnic groups to find regular jobs. Therefore, the female members of the family are often the breadwinners. They are the ones who take out loans, build houses, make important decisions, which is otherwise rare in India. Our reporters Akanksha Saxena and Neerat Kaur looked around the villages – and found signs of hope: The young generation is trying to leave this sad tradition behind and fight for better education and rights.

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Video Transcript

Foreign [Applause] is waiting for customers at the roadside To support so far no luck Raj Kumari is one of the hundreds of thousands of Indian women in institutionalized sex work in a practice with roots in the age-old caste system Just three hours away from India’s capital New Delhi is a starkly different world I’m traveling to a cluster of villages known for sex work this is gay goalie a village in the district of alwar in the state of Rajasthan here I meet Ankita who is a sex worker

At her request we have changed her name she says she’s of legal age but doesn’t look it Ankita is getting ready for a client her clients include men from nearby Villages truck drivers or migrant workers that pass through on the highways and young men with disposable incomes she joined the profession three years

Ago and says it was by choice as it enables her to support her family I know from my father that my aunt also worked like this I got into this field due to poverty how much are you earning at the moment about 60 to 70 000 rupees per month

Around 750 Euros apart from me no one in my family can find work we were starving we need a roof over our heads we need to build a house and my sister needs to get married do you have any debt I paid it all off how much was it about 11 000 Euros

Oh that’s a lot did you pay that back yes everything within two years three years Having to borrow money traps many families here in a vicious cycle Banks do not lend money since they do not consider sex work as work so these families turn to local lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates making them even poorer we also changed her real name is the

Eldest of a total of seven siblings due to high debt she also has to work as a prostitute like her mother and her aunt I was 15 when I understood what it was all about and at the same time it became more and more clear to me how poor we are

So I got in what was the situation my little siblings always had to beg for food we have no real house no land nothing at some point the money that my mother earned here as a sex worker didn’t suffice so she had to go to Mumbai in hotels you can earn more

She had to leave us alone to do so it became clear to me that it was the only way to make money and essentially for us to survive one day I finally said to her I don’t want you to do this I will take care of this I am now the

Breadwinner of the family rashna went to Mumbai through an agent who recruited her by contacting local pimps in an elaborate sex trade Network there are an estimated 3 million sex workers in India between ages 15 and 35. sex work is legal in India pimping and human trafficking are not

This is a matter of survival for many like rachna they are abused in the system but stay for lack of any other avenues of work Bombay man when I was very young I had a client in Mumbai who treated me horribly he wouldn’t even pay me

Instead he beat me black and blue and even stole my clothes I ran after him but couldn’t take them back it was extremely humiliating there is a stigma attached to these Villages as the people here belong to the bottom of the cast iron key Where these women come from have traditionally been nomadic tribes they move from place to place they’re scattered all over but many are in the states of madhya Pradesh Rajasthan haryana and uttar Pradesh before the women were driven into sex work these ethnic groups worked mainly as performers dancers jugglers acrobats and magicians

Because of their work and way of life the British colonial power viewed these ethnic groups as a threat in 1871 they were criminalized under the criminal tribes act which was only repealed at the time of India’s independence stereotypes about these tribes still persist in society and makes it almost

Impossible for them to start other professions or means of livelihood I went to meet male members of a family from the community there’s a lot of discrimination no one wants to give us decent jobs that would mean we could climb up and out of our misery people don’t want that so there’s

No change how do you determine that how is this noticeable in everyday life they won’t even stand or walk next to us because we belong to a low cast they tell us to go away but it’s getting better as more and more of us push to go to school

Otherwise they wouldn’t let us come near their homes in school nobody would sit next to me I wouldn’t even show my ID card fearing retaliation and humiliation because of our cast some children here don’t know who their father is of course the mother’s customers don’t give names

But this is a problem because in many places you can only be officially registered with your father’s name so these kids fall through the cracks but women have been able to challenge some gender roles by becoming the primary breadwinner those who make money are strong our women are strong they support the family

They call the shots the women are ahead of us here they are immensely respected these women are able to bring income to the families build properties and make homes they can pay off Family debts which not many women in India can do some eventually leave the village and

Move to the country’s major Urban centers to Delhi Mumbai or Calcutta some even as far as Dubai husbands fathers and brothers of the sex workers are involved in enabling the street and contributing to the family economy they act as pimps but also do house chores and raise children

But there are women who are completely on their own this can be difficult especially when they get older snail ATA only had one daughter who also worked as a sex worker then she died probably from a sexually transmitted disease I don’t have any other kids she died she got very ill

Most of the women we spoke to would like to move on from this life Ankita dreams of marriage when she’s done helping her family does everything to give her child a decent education which she hopes would weigh her way to Freedom however something is slowly changing in The Villages

I meet guddu nagar a teacher who is supported by an NGO working to end sex work creature today’s lesson is about grammar he believes a good education will help the women find safer ways of employment Big foreign and these families no woman works as a sex worker gudu nagar belongs to the same tribes his relatives were in the sex trade too he wanted to break the cycle he started by teaching himself to read and write and then his relatives our nomadic way of life was one of the

Reasons it was too difficult for us to escape our misery I have four brothers none of whom went to school and some of my sisters are still illiterate after I had taught myself a few things a social worker from an NGO helped me today I have an official degree and can

Work as a teacher yeah there are stories like this but few and far between members of the community are trying to change the destiny of the Next Generation sentence I’m Nancy and I want to be an air hostess one day why an air hostess it’s my dream because you want to fly yes

A desperate hope is simmering that through education and knowing their rights these women can leave the shackles of the past foreign

Video “India’s prostitution villages | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 06/19/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.