One thing I always wanted to write on was the age old industry called Prostitution or probably, in a not so harsh note, story of the commercial sex workers.
They have so many names, places, taboos attached to their profession. A whore, a red light area and a lot of other words in the local language. I have always heard about the red light area in Pune which falls in Budhwar Peth. The surprising thing about this area is that it’s adjacent to the Mecca of second hand book sellers-the Appa Balwant Chowk. No one has read about the brothels in Pune. All of us know about Kamathipura in Mumbai or Sonagachi in Kolkata. The red light area belt in Pune is probably the third largest in India.
This makes me recall an instance I heard from a friend. He stayed somewhere near Budhwar Peth. He had a habit of waking up and going straight into his balcony, stretching himself and looking out, enjoying the gentle breeze. He noticed a shopkeeper, before unlocking his shop, he looked straight and joined his hands in a praying position. He couldn’t see to whom the shopkeeper was greeting as a tree blocked his view. Furthermore the shopkeeper also closed his eyes as if he was in a temple and concluded by touching the tip of his fingers to his chest. He ignored it for a week, he again saw it.
He ran down, waited for that person to open the shop, and asked, “Where is a temple here?” looking around. The shopkeeper replied, “There is brothel right next to your apartment. The women there earn a living by selling their self-respect. If they hadn’t been in Pune, we would have seen our daughters, sisters all getting raped on the roads, and they are nothing less than God to me.”
My friend mentioned the whole episode to me. I really felt that comparing sex workers to God is an unwanted hyperbole but I did respect the thinking of the shopkeeper. It also makes me realise that a rape is hardly ever heard in Pune.
In India we do not have dignity of labour. We need to understand the fact that these women take up this profession not by choice but its sheer poverty or probably a known person forcing them or selling them off. We also have instances where girls/boys indulge in such activities to support their education.
The other part which goes ignored is the children of these sex workers. These children are denied education by the people who run these rackets. They suffer from nutritional deficiencies and are mostly sold to child traffickers and that money is never given to the biological mother. We as individuals cannot make a difference but we can stop calling them prostitutes and the likes and start mentioning them as commercial sex workers.
After all let’s remember what the shopkeeper said.