Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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Welcome to Sonagachi – Calcutta’s largest brothel area is thriving


“I have been in Sonagachi for 25 years. I rent this room for 114 Rupees a month. This is my home.”

Champa Das has invited me into her home. Champa Das has been a sex worker all her adult life.

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. Everyone in our small group is tense. Champa Das’ decision to grant me access to her life has not been taken easily. 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. 9000 women, many of them trafficked into the country from Bangladesh or Nepal, work in Sonagachi. 60.000 more sex workers area 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 center of a problem that may soon spiral out of control and affect millions of people in Bengal and the neighboring 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. Along with the government, the media chooses to ignore the enormous scale of the industry.

Champa Das lives in a tiny, 2 by 7 meter corridor-like room. The room is divided into three partitions. The second partition has a real bed and a TV. We sit under the TV. The wall is painted an ugly green. Young men pop their heads through a hole in the opposite wall at regular intervals. There’s no privacy.

Champa Das points to an adjoining cubicle behind her, “I rent that room for 8 Rupees a day, to make some extra money.”

Sex in Sonagachi can be had for as little as 10 Rupees. Champa Das points to her front door. There, another bunk has been set up to make another potential 8 Rupees a day. There is little room for personal belongings. Champa Das is a devout Hindu and small statues of Ganesh line the walls.

“I have to pay extra for the TV.”

Suparna Tat is sitting next to me on the bed. Champa Das sits on the narrow bit of floor next to the bed. Suparna Tat has been a field worker and program coordinator for The Durbar Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) for a year. She has a degree in anthropology. Suparna Tat is conducting an ‘exposure visit’. I am being ‘exposed’ to Sonagachi.

The DMSC, also called Durbar, an organization representing sex workers in India and across the world, was founded in 1992 and receives large donations from the national government and foreign donors to fund AIDS prevention programs. The aim of the organization is to promote reliance, respect and recognition amongst sex workers.

Suparna Tat is a good translator. She sits cross-legged, playing with her mobile phone while talking to Champa Das. In the light of the neon overhead our host’s scars become clearly visible. Champa Das’ arms are lined with old cuts and her face is battered. Suparna Tat has never been a sex worker.

Champa Das remarks, “The lady who owns this building rents out ten rooms like mine. Each woman in each room sublets part of the room to another sex worker. These flyers come for the day, from another part of town. In the evening they go home, some to their families.”

Champa Das curses her landlady.

Suparna Tat does not translate. “It was a dirty word, I cannot translate it.” She laughs uncertainly. “I cannot even say it.”

Half eaten plates of food are stacked on the floor next to unwashed cooking pots. Outside, the alleys team with rats and shady young toughs. Women lean into shadowy doorways, tucking in their saris, scanning the passers-by. Sonagachi is a hard place, forgotten by day, remembered by night by India, by Calcutta, by thousands and thousands of men who come to the area, pay a quarter Dollar for sex and return to their lives, as if nothing had happened. But things are happening. India is top of the global list of quickly rising AIDS statistics.

French writer and activist Dominique LaPierre has been running aid projects in Calcutta for 20 years. The best-selling author of ‘The City Of Joy’ is clearly worried about the sex industry in India.

“We are facing big challenges. Leprosy, and more recently, AIDS, has begun to seep into all levels of Indian society. The sex trade in Mumbai and to an extent in Calcutta is flourishing. These cities have large populations of itinerant workers who all take the diseases they have been infected with back to their villages and families. AIDS is like a time bomb.”

Calcutta is a city crowded with millions of men from the hinterlands of Bihar and West Bengal. Builders, construction workers, rickshaw pullers, even taxi drivers in Calcutta are mostly from out of town.

The DMSC, which claims to have 60.0000 members, is running a ‘comprehensive health development program centering HIV/AIDS’. That’s what the pamphlet reads that Debashish Chowdury, the organisation’s monitoring officer, presses into my hand as we return to the Union’s offices.

Champa Das has no worries about condoms. “Thanks to the DMSC, we get condoms very cheap, 5 condoms for 2 Rupees. But the clients, at least three quarters of them, won’t use them.”

Komala Das and Rahma Sahni, Champa Das’ neighbors, agree. “ If we force them to use the condom, they will just go next door. There are so many women working here, and in the end, everyone is prepared to work without protection for fear of losing trade.”

In 1999 the DMSC claimed that 90% of clients used condoms. These days the official figure is 65%. Sanjay, a middle-aged pimp who controls a small group of women in Sonagachi, laughs at the statistics, “That would be great. Unfortunately the scale of the trade makes things like this hard to enforce.” It’s hard to verify figures like this independently, but sex workers all over Calcutta tell a different story.

Champa Das receives very little information. “Some sex workers are tested for HIV. If they are positive, they are not told of the results. They live with the disease, not knowing they are infected, because the DMSC is worried that HIV positive women will be ostracized.”


Given the conservatism, the public double standards and secrecy surrounding AIDS/HIV, the epidemic is likely to get much worse. According to DMSC, HIV positive cases in Sonagachi have risen from just 1% in 1992 to 9% today. In Mumbai (formerly Bombay), figures run as high as 70%.

It’s been a long journey to Champa Das. Not only is Sonagachi a prison no one can leave; it is also difficult to get in. The risk to go and talk to sex workers without outside help is considerable. Armed youths make direct contact with women living in the area difficult. The alternative to get access is an organization like Durbar. To see Champa Das involves getting permission to work in Sonagachi by the DMSC in the organisation’s aircon office, then having it abruptly withdrawn by case-workers as soon as we hit the narrow alleys of Sonagachi.


Eventually I am told I am not allowed to talk to anyone other than women directly involved in the organisation’s projects. I have already experienced exactly the same strategy at the hands of another organization purporting to help women in Calcutta. Journalists are regularly invited by aid organizations working in the sex trade, then blocked to see anything but the organization’s own projects. Sonagachi, it transpires, is firmly in the hand of the DMSC.

On a small square, an argument develops amongst the case-workers. The entire community of Sonagachi has the opportunity to witness the stand-off.

Back in the office of the DMSC, money talks.

Debashish Chowdury is standing in front of me, his hand open, demanding 30$ cash from myself and the photographer, for the ‘exposure visit’ we have just experienced. Suparna Tat has bowed out of the picture and disappeared into the air-con part of the building. Today, the DMSC office is almost exclusively staffed by efficient looking young middle-class men like Debashish Chowdury. He apologises again, “I am sorry this document was not shown to you prior to your exposure visit and I must insist you pay.”

The pamphlet, entitled ‘Welcome to Sonagachi’ outlines the DMSC’s objectives (many) and achievements (barely tangible). The document is badly written and carries no contact information. No address, no phone or email contacts, nothing.
In the last paragraphs of the pamphlet, the DMSC states that ‘we have decided to request our esteemed visitors to support our program through token donation. To systematize the process, Durbar (umbrella of sex workers different organizations) decided to put charges on exposure visits.’…..‘The charges fixed for this exposure visit is Rs. 1,000.00 (Rupees One thousand only) per person.’….‘This charge will include only project briefing and visit to a near-by field for a half a day program. This will not include food and travel expenses.’….‘Cars may be rented from our Project for visiting far-off field visits.’

A 1000 Rupees would go a long way with Champa Das. So would the 50 Million Rupees that the UMSC, a subdivision of the DMSC has in the bank, for a rainy day, apparently. Debashish Chowdury shows me some recent press clippings his organization has received. Melinda Gates, the wife of the world’s richest man, has been to Sonagachi. She left 200 Million $US in India to fight AIDS. Will it help in the hand of people who promote a red light area like a zoo? Melinda Gates thinks that India’s pop stars and cricket players will change the nation’s perception on HIV.

Debashish Chowdury is getting agitated by my questions, “You are misunderstanding all this. You cannot make a statement about Sonagachi after only an hour in the field. Many of the women here choose to work in Sonagachi. DMSC is fighting for the legalisation of this work in order to give dignity and independence to India’s sexworkers.”

Indeed, the DMSC has been organizing festivals in Calcutta, where sex workers cook and dance for the local community. In the eyes of the average Indian, that’s a fun day out freak show.

Mahla Singh, one of the organisation’s founders, states, ”It is rarely acknowledged that for most sex workers, entering the sex industry is not a result of coercion or an act of desperation but a rational choice.”

I spoke to scores of sex workers in brothels across Calcutta. The only sex workers I met who’d made a rational choice of sorts where the high class girls in the city’s discos who charge up to 1000$ a night. It’s a long way from a posh Park Street night-spot to Sonagachi. The vast majority of sexworkers in India were sold into the business. The DMSC is cultivating the image of the ‘happy hooker’, a vapid hope raised with donors in order to attract large funds from abroad.

Indrani Sinha, director of Sanlaap, another organization purporting to help sex workers, disagrees with the DMSC’s philosophy. “Most women are coerced into this trade. I don’t think legalisation is the solution. We hear of women being trafficked into Calcutta’s red light districts every day. I wouldn’t even call prostitution work in this country.”

To celebrate its 12-year anniversary, the DMSC recently produced a fashion show. Debashish Chowdury is reluctant to show me the press clipping. After some heckling he hands me the Bengal-language reports. Sex workers turned into catwalk models for just one day. The clothes sold, the women went back to work. The monitoring officer has understood that it’s not a story a western audience might take to.

I refuse to pay. “With all due respect, I cannot pay this fee, which is squarely aimed at the media and trivializes the terrible circumstances out in the street. Prostitutes appear to have few rights in Calcutta, despite the best efforts of organizations like Durbar.”

Debashish Chowdury asks me to put my point of view in writing (I am doing so now), “The director is the child of a sex worker you know. WE don’t use the word prostitute. It’s derogatory. We believe sex workers should be allowed to work legally.”

He knows as well as I do that this is not going to happen anytime soon in a society where women have little independence and many are regularly abused, disadvantaged, starved and sold, beaten and killed by their male superiors, partners or family members. I am talking about ordinary women. Women like Champa Das are right at the bottom of a human pyramid so gigantic it almost defies definition. In other red light areas around the city, like Kalighat, thousands of young Nepali and Bengali girls work out of small hovels. In train stations all over Calcutta, in alleys and in the streets, more than a hundred thousand children eke out a living, sliding in and out of sex abuse situations every day.

Debashish Chowdury and I have come to an impasse, when our argument is helped along by a young voice behind me. “Mr. Chowdury is right of course. We need to give the women respectability. Only then can they be independent. You must not misrepresent this area as a place of misery.”

Gazi Nazrul Islam Faisal is project manager of a Marie Stopes HIV Prevention Project in Bangladesh. Gazi Nazrul Islam Faisal is on a fact-finding mission and does not have to pay for ‘exposure visits’. Gazi Nazrul Islam Faisal is a man. So are his two colleagues who have come over from Bangladesh. Except for photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat, all present in the room are men. We are talking about what women, who have no power over their bodies and lives, who are not free by any definition of the word, want. Debashish Chowdury wants my money. I want to go back to Champa Das and hear something real. My fixer tells me a gang of men has been following us and it is time to get into a taxi and leave the area.

“We have problems with landlords, the police and local goondas (gangsters). We try to help each other and it’s really tough. But we only go to the NGO as a last resort.”

As I leave Champa Das, she smiles in the door to her room, “Tell people about what it is like to live here, what you saw and what you heard.”

The fight for the women of Sonagachi continues. So does the trade of new girls to the area. Despite periodic denials by the DMSC, it’s a thriving business. No one has yet suggested to go after the clients, the pimps or the police. Perhaps in ten years time, the women of Sonagachi will have wrested control from the male-dominated society whose iron grip they feel every time they turn a trick. Perhaps, in a better future, the sex workers will be controlled by organizations like the DMSC and happy young Indian women will flock into the world’s oldest profession with new-found rights and enthusiasm. Perhaps. In the meantime, if I need to hire a car, I know where to go. Do they provide female drivers?

Published in the Irish Independent.

I am receiving a lot of comments for this story. Some of them can be read below. Some readers unfortunately send very abusive emails, generally aiming their torrents of anger at the sex workers. Also, many readers comment only to brag about their sexual escapades in India or inquire about how to access the sex trade in Kolkata. Most of these mails are deleted.

But due to the continuing flood of these disturbing confessions, I have now decided to run just one chilling comment from a Sonagachi client on this page. There is nothing typically Indian about this missive – abusive, criminal sexual predators exist all over the world. This comment illustrates the terrible abuse sex workers face on a daily basis.

I had a pleasent exprience of sex in sonagachi with anupriya she has been associated in this line at the age of 8years when her mother forced her to work as a prostitute. her ugly face was in tolerable but for in her lust i bang her for more than one hours at the rate of 125 as per the rate it would be only 25 rupees,but her crying face compailed me to give her 100 rupees. her house would not be more than 3meters per side still she managed to survive in that room.
i met with her mother and enquired about her life when she told me that she had been in sonagachi since 1983.she was verry helpless and recless when she was forced to be fucked by 3 person at a time. may she get more and more customers in future. call her in XXXXXXXXX (phone number removed).

For those readers who continue to contribute constructive messages and criticism, the comments remain open .

225 Responses to “Welcome to Sonagachi – Calcutta’s largest brothel area is thriving”

  1. 1
    Deabratrata Patrl:

    Dear sir, A lot of changes has been ain andcome to the Sonagachi. Just visit ag.ait and experience it

  2. 2

    Dear Deabratrata Patrl,
    My article provides a portrait of the area at the particular time I visited. What exactly has changed for the thousands of sex workers in the area?


  3. 3

    a damn good article!

    i came to read it as i searched for articles on sonagachi to get an overview/insight before i write a HIV/AIDS centric proposal for my NGO in Delhi (i work as a propsal writer in it).

    Though i belong from Kolkata, i never visited that place bcause of obvious reasons.

    write to me, i would appreciate! :-)

  4. 4

    would u work with me over “real” development in India? its something new.
    if interested, mail me.

  5. 5

    Dear Akash Sir,

    I want to work with you. I want a healthy,knowledgeable social for that reason i can do anything. Please give me a chance to work with any NGO’s.

  6. 6

    i can give all information about the area & there human beings.i m also related with the NGO’s.u can contact with me in any clarification.

  7. 7

    hai everybody i want to do work with u

  8. 8
    R Kishore:

    It is realy samful that the repoduction system of nature has become the way of livlihood of some female. I understand, it is only because few people grab all the opportunity of leaving. I will be the happiest man if I can do some thing for the sex workers of sonagachi.
    In fact I had never visited the place but it is my dream to visit the place, study the life style and way of earnings of the sex workers who are compel to leave there and sale her self for fulfil their basic needs.

  9. 9

    i think ,at the age of 15 or above every girl and boy want to sex.those girls who has already boyfriend sex with each other and similar condition with boys who has girlfriend.but who has not girlfriend or boyfriend where he or she will go?boys have one option to go red light area like is not wrong to go sonagachi for boys ,it’s my personal point of view only.

  10. 10
    pradip roy:

    There is nothing wrong in earning money by selling ones body,when that is having a market demand,and the seller wants to sell his/her body to earn money.But what is painful,is that a lion share of the cost that the client pays for the same goes to the agencies like pimps,landlords,local leaders,NGO members, Police and so on.

    Though the body of opposite sex is a desired object for anybody,it may be thought of,why sexworkers are normally women,though gigolos ( male prostitute)also exist,but they are numbered.

    Let there be a fare and free market for sex,guided by a rational consumer behaviour.

  11. 11
    R Kishore:

    Enjoy the life by using all means provided by the nature but don’t make it painful for any body.

  12. 12
    Sambhunath Tiadi:

    I have a good vast experiences on Sonagachi known as BK Paul Avenue. I strongly support the sex workers of Sonagachi, and also interested to pressurize to legalize the sex workers by issuing license to them like the country of Austria,Australia and many other countries. Sex is a human instinct, and consequent upon physical growth,one learn it from other who is experienced in sexual relationship. It is quite personal.

  13. 13
    Sambhunath Tiadi:

    Generally all the ladies are shy in nature, and we the male dominated people have misguided them to accept the profession of prostitution. Now It has been grasped to the entire world. I am very much interested to form an all India sex workers Organization or to support that organisation, if some try to form it. Further it is informed that legalization of sex workers will control rape,molestation and murder in a great extent.I am always ready to help legally and financially. After taking voluntary retirement from Government of India, I have also established a registered Trust under Trust Act-1888 in the name of “Lord Jesus & Mother Mary Foundation”. I am the president cum Managing Trustee of the Foundation. Our foundation is always ready to extend its cooperation as and when required.
    President cum Managing Trustee
    Lord Jesus & Mother Mary Foundation
    HIG-221(K5),Kalinga Vihar BDA Colony,Po-Patrapada,
    Mobile-91 9777816178
    Office: (0674)2475043

  14. 14

    I should point out that I can not vouch as to the genuineness of the comments on this page. This is a free expression forum. I delete obscene and offensive comments, especially in connection with Sonagachi. All other comments are published, even if I personally disagree with them. I am in no way promoting announcements by Christian groups claiming to aid or wanting to aid the sex workers of India. Hundreds of Christian NGOS operate in Kolkata, many allegedly looking after the most vulnerable in society. In my experience, many of these groups are in fact profit-orientated and exploit India´s vast pool of unfortunates.

  15. 15

    a piece of statistics…..out of the 700 odd rupees that is the starting rate for a decent place, the girl gets 25 odd rupees. Please work out the labour needed to buy a dress!!!
    (this was for the benefit of the people who are talking about the economic plusses of legalising prostitution)

  16. 16
    Sambhunath Tiadi:

    Lord Jesus & Mother Mary Foundation is a registered trust, not a christian organization. Mr. Sambhunath Tiadi is a branded Hindu Brahman and have started this foundation after voluntarily retiring from government of India from Kolkata. I have gone many times to BK Paul Avenue and also enjoyed sex. I have no negative remarks on it. Jesus is like Mahatma Gandhi and Mary is also a lady. To know the real truth and activities of christian missionaries, I have formed it. Intention of the foundation is to eradicate poverty by suggesting government on economic reformations policies.
    i am in favor of sex. all the sex workers are good,but problems creators are……..who…you all guess
    I want to start a sex worker business in orissa also. Can any body help me?


  17. 17

    Sambhunath Tiadi, it does not sound like you need to start a sex worker business in Orissa, since you already enjoy sex services on BK Paul Avenue. I cannnot imagine someone less suitable to get involved in finding solutions for Indian sex workers. If there were a price for such a position, you would surely get it.

  18. 18

    I am ram here i would to like help to sex workers so please send me details how to help for them if any one know details pls send with contact details to

  19. 19
    Kalyan Roy:

    The article on Sonagachi was awesome , unbeleavable but true . Fortunate enough to find it .

    Thanks to the writer for an indeapth analysis of the misery of this trade and about the grewsome

    state of HIV in India .

    Thanks , Kalyan Roy , Mumbai , India

  20. 20

    yes it must be legalise for stop the corruption or issue licencense for it. It is ancient times when things r started and pramoted by biritish soldiers also. Good thing if legalise in one part of india then impliment in all over india.

  21. 21
    Dianna B:


    Fantastic reporting not to mention you are very brave. I’m working with an NGO to help survivors of human trafficking and slavery in Kolkata now. It’s horrible what is going on here and grossly underreported. I read an article by a woman named Laura Ingral I think just before yours and her blog boards turned into a where to find the best girls in Sonagachi. 200 posts of it. Had to everything in my power to keep from vomiting right then and there.

    These women are slaves, stolen from their homes and villages, or are now second and third generation red light. The way these women are treated is an abomination, a blight on humanity. Thanks for truthfully shedding light.

    Best wishes.

  22. 22
    Metal Girl:

    You can’t legalize drugging little children’s Coca-Colas, kidnapping them, and then having them systematically raped while THEY have to pay others for it financially, or pay for it with their lives because they contract HIV/AIDS!!! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

  23. 23

    HI Dianna,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Could not agree more. Incidentally, I also get scores of emails from Indian readers reporting where to find the best girls and what they cost. Or they ask me for advice how to operate in Sonagachi as a client. It´s all a bit sad. The plight of Indian prostitutes is indeed barely reported, not least because India is so sexually repressed and the discussion is largely taboo, and because far too much energy is spent on projecting India`s successes while completely ignoring the country`s inability to provide even the most basic services to the majority of its citizens.
    The increasing influence of globalization and widespread access to pornography on the Internet have made India a more dangerous country, with a quickly growing population of male sexual predators. No doubt, pornography and the Internet have a place in every society, but given the terrible treatment of women in India and the lack of dialogue about sex, the technology-driven future of India´s sexual health looks grim indeed.

  24. 24

    Hi Tom.
    Just days ago I happened upon the documentary about Sonagachi: “Born Into Brothels” It is weighing on me. Since, I’ve been trying to find out more. You are accredited for your honesty. From what I have witnessed, it’s far, and in between, on these internet sites, of the portrayal of this area in India. I don’t know how I can help, but I want to. You have my email. Even if it’s just a donation, please let me know what I can do. Thank you for your time.

  25. 25

    if there is no way to survive then what the girls are doing?so it’s the duty of every citizen of india to give as much as help they can do for them.i don’t know how to help, but i want to.

  26. 26
    akash bhargav:

    sir please stopped all these problems related to calcutta.sir everyone want a clean something special sir.

  27. 27

    What are the local police doing about all of this.


  28. 28

    Hi Tom,Dianna,metalgirl,David n all oders..
    Sonagachi is not the only place where liberaization of sex workers is a bare minimum.There are other places in India also facing the same problems.What we need in India is a strong Government Law or an equally forceful public-private partnership to enforce a better living standard for all the lust-quenching self sacrificed women out there.Cmmon sex is a physical activity which is done in private only.Its also a form of work.Then why the hell is such a fuss about it??
    Y cant they be treated as equals.
    My first gf was a sex worker.She died in a car accident.I love these women.from heart..

  29. 29

    I’m an Indian Army Soldier working for Nation to cleanup terrorism. I’m volunteer to work with you as NGO. Please give a chance to me.

  30. 30

    I first found out about the prositution in india when our church had undercover pastors come to calcutta posing as customers and praying for the women . We made a campain over the next years and so far we pledged 69 million . TO help with the after care once these women are rescued and brought to the aftercare facilitys . I want to help i live in the us i am willing to take some people in to my home to get them out of the situation . how can i help?

  31. 31
    v k sharma:

    it should be banned forcibly in india as it is total immoral.there are other means too for livelihood.

  32. 32

    Dear Tom,
    I loved going through your article. That was some great reporting. Incidentally, i am writing a piece on sex-workers and was trying to find some information when i came upon this article. If it interests you, there is a documentary called “Tale of the Night Fairies” by Shohini Ghosh. It deals with the workers of Shonagachi. Thought it might interest you…well…that is if you haven’t watched it yet.

  33. 33

    Whatever Mr. V. K. Sharma has pointed a very fault decision…….here….people dont get to undergo education like you Mr. Sharma….during their childhood as such they have to keep prostitution as an option….earning money is not easy…but it is easy to say…do this and do that…..some people are compelled into prostitution….not for satisfaction…..WHEN ALL THE MEANS OF EARNING ENDS…THEN PEOPLE ARE LEFT WITH PROSTITUTION.

  34. 34

    Many thanks, Sen, for your positive feedback, I will try to track down the film you mention.

  35. 35
    Engr.parimal saha:

    I wants Life partner( From Bangladesh)And live Calcutta.With job.

  36. 36

    @ Engr. Parimal Shah, does this look to you like a matrimonial site? contact Bharatmatrimony & for your life partner requirements.

    @ Samar, who do you think is the government? It is us. If you go through the reader’s comment, you can see how aggressive Indians are wrt the problem.

    This statement from Mr. Tom is shocking but true,

    “The increasing influence of globalization and widespread access to pornography on the Internet have made India a more dangerous country, with a quickly growing population of male sexual predators. No doubt, pornography and the Internet have a place in every society, but given the terrible treatment of women in India and the lack of dialogue about sex, the technology-driven future of India´s sexual health looks grim indeed.”

    I know places in my city they call the red light area. I hear news of women rescued from trafficking. Poverty, underdevelopment, Illiteracy and unemployment are the primary causes. Young women belonging to poor families are lured in, with a promise of marriage, better livelihood and job. India might have improve its literacy levels compared to what it was in the last decade, the Indian families still continue to be ridiculously orthodox and predominantly, worshiping and relishing the male supremacy, PREFERRING A MALE CHILD OVER THE DAUGHTER for obvious reasons of dowry, son being regarded as heir to paternal property, legacy etc. What we need, is improvement in the status of women, attitudinal change among the masses, with the way they look upon and understand women, apart from proper education, development and employment opportunities.

    Dear Tom, I truly appreciate your effort. I find the article interesting. I could relate as I was a part of a similar seminar on women trafficking. I stand for the cause against trafficking. I am a teacher by profession and I make sure I provide the strength and skills to my girl students and for the boys, some lessons in attitude and good behavior. I request you kindly remove irrelevant comments.

  37. 37

    Hi Tom,Ur article is really good. I must admit ur venture. I m from the City of Joy, currently in Kolkata. Being human, its our responsibility to Help others, but the corruptness doesnt allow us. Even if we try to Help people by spreading awareness, Thousand will rise against us. ( As they are involved in it – MONEY THRIVING ACT -)
    Hope People should come forward in this Move. KEpp it up.

  38. 38
    rohit singh:



  39. 39
    suraj bhan sharma:

    i also want to enjoy life

  40. 40

    I have a good experience and enjoyed a lot with using condom…

  41. 41
    chulbul pandey:

    call mamta mashi to organiza a rally in sonagachi for a change….:))

  42. 42
    chulbul pandey:

    mamta mashi-shld seriously think about the rally-”CHALO SONAGACHI”-”PATH TO THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN”

    why waste time and harrass people by blocking roads in the heart of the city.??

  43. 43

    Dear Tom.
    Thanks for sharing this helpful report. Apparently i am making a graphic novel for my humanities class. My topic is child prostitution in india.
    since child prostitution is closely related to the normal prostitution, I read your article and it gave me some great information.
    Hope this issue can be solved as soon as possible. thank you.

  44. 44

    Dear Bean, thanks, glad the story was of some help. Tom

  45. 45

    Dear Tom,
    Your article is one of the few ones that I have come across on the net that tries to take an objective and balanced view on one of the major plights that affects our society. In lieu of other so called more important and “global” topics, the plight of sex workers is mostly ignored. The few articles that do appear are significantly polarized in their opinions in one direction or the other. I have been born in Calcutta and I can admit that Sonagachi and its sex workers are now viewed as just another facet of the city without getting much of real media attention. We must accept the fact that prostitution has been a part of our society for eons and just shoving it under the carpet will make matters worse. Rather than those who berate and crusade against prostitutes would actually make much more of a difference if they instead ensured that the sex workers are provided all the basic amenities that other professions get. Steps taken in those direction will probably help them to be free of the dangers of touts, politicians , goons etc. I am just a 21 year old guy just out of college and issues such as these have been at best a topic of mild discussion for me and my friends. Your article made me think about this quite a lot. I hope you keep enlightening people with such relevant and thought provoking articles.

  46. 46

    our country is having 121 crores of people as per present census 2011,out of that 110 crores might be related to any type of illigal activities. In kolkata where a police sergent can be killed by their own office staff on a crowded street in the day time, what remedies can be sought from the police personnel, when police deptt is filled up with this type of fellow.where should general people go? for remedy. at present no bengali people lives in kolkata as well as west bengal without fear of any type of assult/mis behave from mischiefs if he does not have any direct contact with the political parties. each and every fellow mainly rickshow pullar/taxi driver/auto driver/labourers /pull car drivers throw slungs either others or to their friends without bother of the prestige of other general passengers/comuters at the area of any crowded rail way station and nearby ,bus stand and nearby area in west bengal. This type of nuisance are created by the said men (only looks) in front of the west bengal police. so nothing can be expected from the present police personnel.
    At the presnt condition who is to bell the cat except the political persons.police are liable to protect the general public as per fundamental rights of the human beings,but they are being utilised otherwise violating the INDIAN CONSTITUTION. I cordially request to the political person to come and extend their hands to the downtroden people of the society without any scheme (like Dr, Bidhan Chandra Roy)to escalete their livelyhood, only then the number of brothel area/as well as the numbers of pros will be lower.

  47. 47

    A documentary named “Born into Brothels” is a unique movie showing the true life of the workers at Sonagachi.Just 10 min before I ended up with the documentary but still not able to end up with the tears that what a cruel life these “workers” and their children have to live on.Here the concern is not to speak only but to work for these people so that atleast their children are able to live a respectable and life of dignity when their mothers is selling their mind and soul at the minimum cost of 10 rupees only. Moreover, your this article has made me think quite a lot that who is responsible for their situation and how we can help for the betterment of these sisters and brothers.i don’t belong to kolkata and i am a college guy.If you can send me the address or any telephone number of any of the NGO working for these people,it wil be a great thanks of you..please

  48. 48

    Listen,we should legalise prostitution in our country.That way we could save these girls from rapes and molestations by the police and local goons at least.As for the problem of disease goes,the girls out there should unite and not let customers from have sex without protection.Prostitution is one of the earliest and ancient trades and no amount of ethics will prevent it.So we should try to improve the conditions these girls live in.

  49. 49
    K T:

    It is very very very shameful. Actually these women don’t want to be prostitute but for each reason in society they have to earn and they is no any other way in this country. Government should think and give them a chance to earn.

  50. 50

    i hav so much sampathy with them.

  51. 51

    sonagachi like areas in india should be removed closely because most sex workers are poor ,if we can provide employment and self empowerment ,sonagachi and kamathipura like areas will not be a red light area.this problems need regular media attention so that whole country can help on this issue,i also thinks women trafficking is on high in india and our goverment is not doing anything and we call india a fast developing nation .it’s real shame that we are not doing anything the future is in danger

  52. 52

    changing sonagachi like areas into a peaceful place is a slow process and it requires political and public help .please politicians and police wake up from your seat

  53. 53

    its gr8 to go through this page . I had been searching for the datas on all India prostitutes and sex workers that i encountered this page . We are on a mission to raise a stir through legal battle for their rights shortly and for which were on a way to do the needful. In case you are in touch with someone who is equally minded or anyone who is equally minded may be diverted to me. wish u all good luck.

  54. 54
    dr kripesh upadhyay:

    dear sir i liked ur article really its shame i wanna work with u pls give me chance one i can do something for ur ngo

  55. 55
    Indian woman:

    News like this makes me feel so fragile to be a female. This is hell- actual true hell. I wonder where god is or if there even is a god??
    How sadistic, cruel and inhumane! How can men be like this? More shockingly how can WOMEN force their fellow sisters and daughters into this fire?

    The least I hope (to god if there god be) is that every poor young innocent girl/child dies before getting raped.

    Indian politicians will never allow anything good to be done for these people – no point in trying Mrs Gates! :’(

  56. 56

    Hi all,

    I am new to Calcutta. Ever since my stepping into the city, I am always uncomfortable. Its congested, pressure all over… except my office!

    While just trying to know what Sonagachi is, I landed into this article. I am in loss of a word to explain my feelings… If I say, pathetic, My heart again says, ‘just that ??’ To let the Sonagachi breath in, I think the parks like ‘City Central Park’, ‘Victoria Mahal’ and all parks should be shut down for some years or atleast strictly not allow fore-play activities. I have even observed a lady police in the state of a helpless onlooker at this activities in Victoria Mahal. Why I link this to bread for women at Sonagachi is obvious. Initially they can atleast get some good food and living to survive like humans. There after the restoration, rehabilitation etc etc. I plead the girls of Calcutta, ‘stop craving for orgasms in parks’, let your counter parts visit Sonagachi! As an alternative, you girls can concentrate on education or do something else. You ppl are doing that for fun whereas the women at Sonagachi are doing that to stay alive. I have seen pictures of girls over internet in Sonagachi. (The best example is the author’s Post Script which shows what’s happening to the kids in Sonagachi). I got numb going through the reportage. God can’t help. The Kolkatans need to.

  57. 57
    Malay Pandit:

    Change Sonagachi, and I am your that individuals like you will change the world some day.

  58. 58

    plz……..stop all diz nonesense..
    fck all dos pimps. plz try and do something to stop dis shit buisness….

  59. 59

    dear sir,

    people and sex is common matter, we take it easy because it is a human tendency, but consciousness
    is inevitable.For hiv and other sexual problem. no born with sin. some circumstance made him to sinful live. if we understand perpetually that people belong to normal human why we hate him! some change needs in our society. sir i am with you.

  60. 60

    Sonagachi is but a symptom of a greater malaise that is not confined to India. To improve the lot of the women working the streets of Sonagachi is up to local people though, not foreigners, who, with their donations, are unlikely to improve anything other than an amelioration of their own personal feelings of guilt.

  61. 61

    thanks 4 giving informations!!!!!!!

  62. 62

    i read different articale from internet about sonagachi work thanks to all of organization those who are working in this area.

  63. 63

    Dear Sahanka,

    If you read my article carefully, you would have noticed that I am not an organization and that some organization who claim to help the women of Sonagachi actually contribute to their misery.



  64. 64

    I am completely disgusted by some of the comments by indian males. Wonder why on earth did their moms give birth to these scums >.<. Weren’t they all born to s mother? If sex is such a needed thing that you have got to “rape” innocent girls or even kids to satisfy your lust, then maybe start with the women at your home first? And to the idiots who wants to legalize prostitution, start it at your home first? I can’t believe how brainless can some people be. Btw Tom, good write up, how I wish we had some sort of supernatural powers to just end this misery all together.

  65. 65

    Dear Jam,

    Many thanks for your comments. While I agree that the exploitation of sex workers in India is horrific, I don’t think lust is the problem. Nor is raping your wife at home the solution. Sex is indeed a needed thing, in India and elsewhere. The real problem lies in the fact that women in India are second class citizens and, for the most part, have no rights or independence, no matter which religious group they belong to and which part of the subcontinent they live in.

  66. 66

    By extension, female sex workers face even more dire circumstances than ordinary women. Legalizing the sex industry might not be such a bad idea. It will not stop prostitution but it will give women a little more control over their bodies. Besides inequality, the problem lies with the fact that sex is indeed a needed thing and that Indians have so little access to it – which goes a long way to explain the horrific wave of sexual assaults currently washing across the subcontinent.

  67. 67

    what the hell are this bloody sex workers?

  68. 68

    we are a plaything of creator. we do that what,he makes us to there is nothing right or wrong going to brothel or having sex with wife or shoul have respect for what is happening in brothel or somebodi,s house. Sex workers should be treated in very decent manner.

  69. 69
    rahul mandal:

    i hate sonagachi.

  70. 70

    Im an 20 yrs old guy and i want to share something about my experience in this topic. I must say selling body just for earning money ,not bad but not good enough aswell.i went to SONAGACHI with my freinds only for the first time.i met with a nepali prostitutes after when i came from there ive started thinking about them,and there was only two question clicking my mind WHY N HOW they are doing this.basically many of them are trafficked.ive search on youtube how they are taken to these me whenever i think about dat i cry .i want to stop human traffiking in all over the world but it wont be possible for a single human bieng so please as ive left my email id contact me please in the name of mighty lord.i want to help my self by helping the childrens and to those who are becoming prostitutes by force.praise the lord

  71. 71

    My heart broke down after reading this article . I want to do some help for this prostitutes

  72. 72

    Im an 20 yrs old guy and i want to share something about my experience in this topic. I must say selling body just for earning money ,not bad but not good enough aswell.i went to SONAGACHI with my freinds only for the first time.i met with a nepali prostitutes after when i came from there ive started thinking about them,and there was only two question clicking my mind WHY N HOW they are doing this.basically many of them are trafficked.ive search on youtube how they are taken to these me whenever i think about dat i cry .i want to stop human traffiking in all over the world but it wont be possible for a single human bieng so please as ive left my email id contact me please in the name of mighty lord.i want to help my self by helping the childrens and to those who are becoming

  73. 73

    Dear Tom,

    It really touched my heart. Its so painful to know human beings have become so merciless that they need satisfaction from someones pain. I had just heard about the place but after reading your article i feel so shaken that the people sell themselves for mere sum of money.

    My wishes and prayers with all of you who are contributing towards the noble cause.

    Best Regards,

  74. 74

    Dear Loy, thanks for your comment. I don´t feel I contributed to any noble cause. Since my visit to Sonagachi, nothing has changed there. Girls are still being bought and sold and NGOs still make money by allegedly helping the ‘inmates’. Foreign money still flows into the pockets of organizations who have no interest in real solutions and every interest in making more money. Perhaps the real problem are not just the clients but also the aid organizations who purport to fight for sex workers’ dignity and well-being.

  75. 75

    shame !!! disgusted !!!

  76. 76

    Most of the questions are answred here.

  77. 77

    Hi, Tom

    I want to talk about it, do u have gtalk/skype/msn id for talk ?When u r coming next?

  78. 78
    samarjit mohanty:

    can i know about sonagachi details with photo and video

  79. 79

    Hi Partha,

    I did this story many years ago and while I periodically pass through Kolkata, I don´t visit Sonagachi when I am there. Feel free to post your thoughts on this blog though.



  80. 80

    After seeing “Born into Brothels”, I cannot help but feel the tug of humanity to form up on one side or the other of a line of demarcation known as “consideration for other than self” Apart from trying to validate nightmarish situations perpetuating themselves, the fact of the pure existence of a place such as Sonagachi simply shows the controlling number of people on the wrong side of that line of demarcation. Humanities future continues to hang in the balance. No pun intended..

  81. 81
    RAJ Insan:

    Dear All

    Please read and visit this site.

    you realy feel very good and you also involved to stop prostitution.

  82. 82

    A very intimidating article highligting some of the major facts of our society. Women, often young girls, are induced into this kind of a profession sheerly out of misery and compulsion.Also the hypocrisy and the atrocities of the Indian society is highly depressing.We all comment and boast about contributing something for the betterment of the society but when the time actually comes to do something people just shun away.Take little steps. Propagate safe sex – use protection,respect women,if you see something immoral/illegal happening around you – raise alarm, etc. and i think we all can make a difference to the society and in turn the dreadful condition of humanity.

  83. 83
    R. A.:

    Hello tom,
    This last summer, I worked with an NGO called prerana in the brothels kamatiguda(Mumbai). I’m 22 and though I live in Toronto, I guess my life has been very shielded. When I came to Kamatiguda, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. I saw the reality of life for a prostitute. I saw little girls who were raped and tortured. The feeling is perhaps one of the most painful things in the world.
    It’s sad though. Because I have told my friends what I have been through (friends in India) (I am in India now doing my under grad) and they just smile and nod.

    Recently another friend of mine declares he is going to Sonagachi and asked all the guys to come along. He started saying these things
    1. it’s like a line up. You can pick anyone
    2. You can feel them up and check for tightness (at this point I knew reasoning with him was a waste of time)
    3. It only cost 300 per night for a sexy maal (maal = hot chick?)
    4. V will stay there for 3 nights. That is less than 1000 bucks! Let’s go
    Then One of my friends (I think I need a change of friends) says can I get more than one at a time? (:O)
    And the reply is
    5. Obviously man! U can have as many as u can.
    6. V will go there. Drink and fuck, drink and fuck, drink and fuck

    I left a little bit later. It was too much for me… I realized one thing. All these guys (my friends), they were from well of families, good communities, have girlfriends etc. etc. then why would they behave like such animals? Simple. The Indian man doesn’t look at a woman as his equal. It’s sad. Its heart wrenching.

    I would like to start an N.G.O one day after I have enough money. I don’t want to take help or aid from outsiders. I want to help save the children, the young girls, from all these disgusting predators. I don’t believe it would help but I pray for the tortured souls in all the brothels all over the world

    P.S please feel free to omit anything that you feel is innappropriate..

  84. 84
    vinoth rao:

    are you humans????????……shame on mankind……

  85. 85
    satyendra giri:

    shame…………………………………….. for a country called golden bird

  86. 86

    Dear sir i am babuni from bhubaneswar.your article is so impressive..but i would be grateful if u make a report on people of Malisahi ,Bhubaneswar.Malisahi is recognized as the red light area of our state..please have a glance on it..

  87. 87

    hey tom>>>>>.
    thank you for reviling these kind of facts abt the area like sonagachi….i wish Indian govt. could do better for these women s 4 better living . but tom those who r asking u for tips for a trip o songachi are real bastards . and the one fool who is just asking for help to set up a sex center in oorissa is a ass hole….
    and using name of christans that is realy pathetic may god forgiive them…….

  88. 88



  89. 89
    S. Roy:

    Dear Tom,

    People say that prostitution is a necessary evil but I don’t think so; this is just a phrase constructed by them who are unable to control their own lust. They are not humans, in my eyes.

    But then again, since it cannot be stopped at once, the best thing is stopping the girls from being trafficked into it. My real-life experience says there are many NGOs that opened apparently to help the sex workers; later I found out they are just a means of earning free money and free flesh. This is Kolkata, where people would sell another person’s blood to make money. However, if you ever feel of starting something to stop the trafficking part, I shall be most grateful to offer whatever little help that I can.

  90. 90

    I visit sg once in a year i have fixed girl for whom i carry gift, chocolate and give her extra money in hand whenevr i go to her. she is very good polite, smiling face and very lovable, i cant chnage her life since she is already into this for may be 10 years. i try to pass some time with her talk about her personal life and while she looks into the gifts etc. her eyes sparkles i get some comfort.It is not because of the orgasm but because people can pass some good time with these girls ( not all may be some of them are bad in behaviour ) most lot of them are very good hearted and very very neglected in the society hence they look for some good people for good behaviour.
    God bless them !

  91. 91


  92. 92

    i am proud
    of you

  93. 93

    Hi sir u r doing a great job for those sex workers in sonagachi

  94. 94

    JOY RCM !!

  95. 95

    Plz sum 1 tell me how to save girls from dat place.. I really wanna save atleast 1 gal from dat place n let me give her a life..

  96. 96


  97. 97

    Tom the problem is …you are writing in India … these people only know how to screw people … Tom I am lawyer … i always wanted to work on behalf of these people …. as my emphasis is on human rights … so I will be glad if can help you … contact me anytime you want … It’s great article Tom …fantastic.

  98. 98

    with out pros the city will become like delhi, the youth will come to the path to rap the innocent girl you can see in calcutta where any woman can move any where she like with out any scare.
    this is because of sonakachi. you can stop your hot at this atrea
    and this is the only way to maintain your humanity. if the pros is agry to spend her time with you then what is your problem. dont be so sily every human are a animal if you open his belt.
    i have seen numbers of saint like ramdev and others like him or
    more then him.

  99. 99

    A good article. It needs attention…

  100. 100

    Dear Friends,

    Prostitution has became a profession from very old time. We can,t change it. Yes we can remove those who are working under pressure. We could give smiles on their face by rescuing them from antisocials. Some females like prostitution than a painful life/situation. Our society/Nation/Laws should provide all their human rights in view of humanity. People shouldn,t smile on them in public place. Police /Media shouldn,t make the issues/alegations on them as well as their customers for prostitution work. Police/Media should take actions on those who are presurising females to do it.

  101. 101
    Amrita Ray Choudhuri:

    Thanks a lot for this article on Sonagachhi – the largest red light area in Kolkata.It’s heping people to know about sex workers.The life they chose , the life they lead in most of the cases due to their unavoidably bad conditions not out of their own choice.Rather they do not have anything called choice at all.

  102. 102
    Pintu Saha:

    I greatful to visit that site… because I have no idea about this Big Place…. A warm greating for the sex workers from my side … Wish there a very Happy New year 2012

  103. 103

    Let me help

  104. 104
    sukamal mondal:

    can i know about sonagachi details with photo and phone numbers

  105. 105

    i think ,at the age of 15 or above every girl and boy want to sex.those girls who has already boyfriend sex with each other and similar condition with boys who has girlfriend.but who has not girlfriend or boyfriend where he or she will go?boys have one option to go red light area like is not wrong to go sonagachi for boys ,it’s my personal point of view only.

  106. 106
    victor chakraborty:

    thanks sir for such an wonderful post. the topic of prostitution is widely spread all over the world. to understand why a lady opts for this we first have to solve the matter of economy of a country.
    PAIN OF A HUNGRY STOMACH IS MUCH MORE PAINFUL THAN A UNWANTED SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. things have gone to worst for them day by day because they have always been ignored of the society same as untouchables, problem is people go out there have sex with them and then never look back at them. if today a child takes birth in a brothel THATS ALSO A FAULT OF WE MEN WHO GO OUT THERE TO HAVE FUN WITH HER PROBLEMS.
    it is not only with india same problem is going around in countries like ukraine and romania. its like people have accepted them with vague terms like “sluts” being working in many NGOs and also a amateur psychologist i truly have immense amount of respect for prostitutes around the world they are sacrificing more than we normal people can ever understand, today they are prone to gangsters who rape them they are prone to rapists. ISNT IT A SACRIFICE???? cuz if today they wouldnt have fulfilled the urges of these bloody sick morons known as “RAPISTS or PIMPS” then probably normal ladies would be in much more threat than they are today. SO PLEASE HAVE SOME RESPECT ON THEM.

  107. 107
    Kaushik Basu:

    sex with the prostitute is never at the age of 15 or above .
    This incident will create very bad impression for him. A prostitute is raped by mentally as well as physically.

    So never expect more from a prostitute than human flesh / genital of human being. etc.

  108. 108

    Its really very informative and more than that reading the comments was wonderful experience as it gives a hope that some day things may change and we may accept these truths at open forum.

  109. 109

    greatful to visit that site… because I have no idea about this Big Place…. A warm greating for the sex workers from my side … Wish there a very Happy New year 2012

  110. 110

    I always have sympathy for them, I watched them very closely and couple of them are my very good friends, if you treat them humanly they will also treat you humanly, there are many more things to say about them but hope some other time.

  111. 111

    yes this business should be recognised and should be at per with all profession. and a bill should be passed in the parliament for its recognisation, after all they are also human beings & they deserve their own lively hood.thanks for surveying… keep it up…

  112. 112

    I find some of the comments made by, I’m assuming the men of India who visited this place extremely offensive. Accepting that this is another form of work in their soceity by these men is truly depressing. Some of them even have the audacity to take a sympathetic approach to prostitution yet were part of encouraging it nonetheless. What if this was to happen to their mother’s or sisters or even their children? If they become destitute due to some unforseen circumstances, will they be soo accepting of their mother, sister or child, sleeping with another for money?Let alone letting these abusive men degrade their body? I think anyone who does not feel their heart breaking hearing goulish stories as such, does not belong to the human race. It might be human nature to want to have sex but it is extremely pathetic that you would have to seek it out, pay for it and then degrade them in the process. The Indian Government is extremely corrupt and unless someone with a backbone takes serious action to curb these corruptions in that country, men will continue to degrade women in that soceity. Being someone who has visited that country on numerous occasions,I still get stupid custom officers extorting money to enter that holy land. As much as many good hearted people would love to aid these women in brothels, unfortunately there is nothing we can do unless the government itself participates in aiding the good cause. But why would the government? They accept the pathetic bribes that are dangled in front of them to ensure that prostitution, child rape, abduction and a list of other repulsive acts continue. How can a country with an abundance of knowledge and culture flourish with corrupt personnels who are in it for their selfish needs and not those of the nation? Please feel free to omit what you think is inappropriate. I just speak with such disgust and a heavy heart watching and hearing this happen and continue to happen. A beautiful artical Tom. Thank you.

  113. 113

    While some of the comments may be offensive, I do delete many many others that are way stronger. This blog attracts readers’ comments on an almost daily basis and sadly, most of them either brag about their exploits in Sonagachi or ask me for details on how to get there and how the place works. Many even leave their phone numbers. I reserve the right not to publish posts that are offensive to the women working in Sonagachi, but, to illustrate the dire perception of some Indian men towards Indian women, I let some of the less crass posts stand to encourage debate and give all the other readers an idea of how India as a whole looks at itself. Thanks for this post.

  114. 114

    prostitution is a social evil not only in india but entire world from ancient india there were many social evils prevails such as sati pratha,child marrage,dowry system ,slavery,cast system ,untouchability etc.But when india became indipendent and indian constituency made indias all social evils baned by law except prostitution.however govt leaglised prostituion but baned comercealisation of this profession cause this would lead to modern sex slavery,so many types of restriction issuses by the law acording to immoral trafic law,but our govt is unable to follow this law.this leads to women and child trafficking and rise of modern sex slavery,if you want to know more about prostituion and theire hazards of women and humen societys deeply then read” SONAGACHIthe ,THE LAND OF BROTHEL” BY PAYRAJ(a true love story of a prostitute) AND T O EREDICATE this social bad customes from our society for the benifeate of our woemens,girls just like other indian ancient social evils.

  115. 115

    Hi Dev,

    Maybe this has something to do with it….

  116. 116

    At first the prostituteS are responsible to prostitutiuon then our govt is responsible for prostitution means modern sex slavery and after all our mens are responsible for them.for three PILLARS only one pillers means our govt destroy this dark profession through root by a new law adopted by our parlia ment which extremly restrict any type of prostitution and baned any type of prostituion strictly and take hard and tough action to eredicate it by root.and other two pillers never are unable to make a revolution cause they have their own benifites acording to their backward thoughts,at last which is harmful to them,after destroying their life they familiear about that well,but till they lost their everything .

  117. 117
    avijit das gupta:

    hi tom
    may be late but sitting in my office now while going through the article of yours i hung my head in shame. really displeasure to learn and admit that we are humans just say HUMANS. mighty we can not be, if and when we pounce upon another who so ever it be, is inferior in sex, and predominantly proof that we are superior in origin. this is no condolence, nor any sorrowful words to prove that we are guilty. then as according to me, it would be a try to sabotage the process of rectification of error. any how at length let us pray that those treacherous die to empty the world of any and more calamity

  118. 118
    Md. Moniruzzaman:

    Its a tragedy for a woman. I want to highlight a comments of Champa, that is; “The lady who owns this building rents out ten rooms like mine. Each woman in each room sublets part of the room to another sex worker. These flyers come for the day, from another part of town. In the evening they go home, some to their families.”

    I think some sex traders are forced by mother, pimps, traffickers and something like that and some are working as freelance sex trader. Freelance sex traders are not doing this trade very cordially, they are forced by their economic situation.

    I think everyone have the rights to get any job, but not forced by . . .

    Md Moniruzzaman
    Project Coordinator
    Development Programme for the Street Girls
    Social and Economic Enhancement Program-SEEP
    Dhaka, Bangladesh
    Cell: +8801716629948

  119. 119
    Prachi verma:

    i see sonagachhi n see the sexworkrs n difficulties of there life. marketing time is started from 4 pm evning n night 12pm. tae started from 50to50,000Rs . i hav so much sampathy with them.
    if sonagachhi market is close then so many customer can dead,n worker also . It is very very very shameful. Actually these women don’t want to be prostitute but for each reason in society they have to earn and they is no any other way in this country. Government should think and give them a chance to earn. rap case is not increasing due to songachhi. balatkar se kolkata saved hai. i live at central avnue near islamia hospital

  120. 120

    I am every interest to work for the people those who are in brothels for their livelyhood and to privent to HIV and to proke to change there place.

  121. 121
    bala ck:

    Sonagachi is real. its a shadow of a giant barbaric socio culture. Its a diseased mutation of a blind society which lost its peace. . I’m a youngster from tamilnadu and i had been to sonagachi with all my pleasure buds squeaking out on the crowd. i bought some sex!
    and sometime i felt ashamed to be a part of such barbaric society.
    but nomore i feel ashamed of it. i just want to know why i was pushed into such a state. Piercing into ma state of mind and the social blockings i jus want to know whats really happening inside this society and the prostitute who is really subjected in this. I think documenting a search which is indeed carried with a precise approach may reflect the truth in it. so its a plan to document the socio culture of sonagachi and all its outcome back to this society. i had been working on it for more than a year with collecting various documents that expose something about sonagachi and its lives. i got little money and time to work on this search. but i need some translators to help me on spot and in table. I’m poor in hindi and bengali language. It would be a kind of more psychoanalytical process so i need people who really got some patience. As a travell photographer i got some patience with me.

    Note: It is a documentary thats gonna be documented in the red light district of kolkata and i promise you the safety is assured. But i don’t have much money to pay for the helping hands.
    and this is ma mail id:

  122. 122
    Rahul Anand:

    Prachi , u r right . but it is wrong way to earn. there are some other way also to earn. I want to Discuss with u more .



  123. 123

    hi i want more details on sonaghachi, whom should i approach.

  124. 124

    hi pls reply asap

  125. 125

    Dear Tom,I am an 18-yr-old student from kolkata. My residence is a stone’s throw away from the famous Sonagachi area of North Kolkata. Since i was very little, i have been taught by my parents to never visit the place and i have always even feared to even ask them about it. But i have nonetheless been exposed to this world. My personal belief is the problem is in the culture of India. I am not passing comment on whether it is good or bad. Frankly i am not learned enough for that. But it is considered unacceptable to even think of associating oneself with sex-workers even as philanthropists in our conservative culture. What the learned “intellectuals” of Kolkata are more concerned with is lectures by the likes of Amartya Sen on poverty and social injustice. But in general, few people are agreeable to the idea of taking it upon themselves and “dirtying” their hands. Nowadays I see a trend among my friends in school. It seems “fashionable” to talk about such problems but no one is really bothered about working in the field. Personally i am not ready to actively enter this world yet. I have yet to complete my education. I do not have money of my own. I live with my parents and you could hardly say i have an identity of my own. But someday I would like to follow in your footsteps and do as much as is humanly possible for me. Thank you.

  126. 126

    i want to visit sonagachi .tell me what is actually happening over there .shall i visit or not ?

  127. 127


  128. 128
    s alok:

    why to bother.if you pay for sex you are helping these girls for their livelihood.

  129. 129
    Simon Z. Rajan:

    While at once appalling and tragic, your article does bring to the fore the characteristic apathy of the Indian citizen to the abysmal condition of the lady of the night, or for that matter his fellow human being. The need of the hour are unconventional laws, and swift unwavering action independent of malignant ulterior motive. Alas, these are but the mutterings of an academic safely ensconsed at home far away-times like these cause one to reflect how impotent the pen is in stead of the sword when required to bring about much needed amelioration. Nevertheless thank you for writing, Tom Vater.

  130. 130

    dear friends if this system continiously run than no one can devolp our humanism so plz stop that plz frienads try to promise that anything can happen but we will not stop we protest this and stop this we have got some responsebility about our contry about our nation about our filling.friends if we will stop that than made be a new india and we must do that becoze we are the power of nation we are power of mankind .plz leave your protest in any how any that from today…in that time.if goverment do not help us thaan we will break the goverment…..we can do antthing for stop prostitucion

  131. 131
    kumar Mukherjee:

    i read some of the extract. My belif that moneted mab should coms froword and uplift theire life style standard living. Health insurane etc to be introduced and proper activity has to be monitared.

  132. 132
    Rohit Pratap Singh:

    Is there any work for me????

  133. 133

    Have a little bit of love , care and mainly have respect for those who are merchandising their body standing hour after hour with uncertainty .

  134. 134

    Most of the Indian NGOs are capitalising their miseries and minting money through various aid without rehavilating them so best way to help them is visit them and spent some quality time with them .

  135. 135


    I do get a feeling that you assume yourself to be too authoritative on the subject, namely the plight of sex workers in Sonargachi. Maybe I am missing something, but has all this authority come from spending a day or a couple of days scouting around Calcutta? A sizable chunk of this experience is of course attributed to this organization call DMSC, that you yourself decry and hence would be logical to assume as irrelevant or subjective. I find your article quite subjective, especially around the area where the DMSC guy asks you for money. You seem so concerned about that act that you have spend quite some real estate of that article on that freak incident (I call it freak since it was irrelevant in the context of your subject). I do not claim to be an expert in Sonargachi or sex workers. But that being said, the statistical significance of your exposure seems to be limited. Do feel free to enlighten all of us if I am wrong. It would only add to the authority of the article, if you choose to do so. I would like to sign off with a simple thought piece from Swami Vivekananda. “There is nothing right or wrong in this world. No one can say that one is better than the other. It is all a matter of the perspective you apply on the situation. With the slightest change, even the most righteous act/person can be equated to evil/devil and vice versa.” Nevertheless, Congrats on the blog !!

  136. 136

    Dear Sandeep, many thanks for your interesting comment. I don’t see how you might assume that I see myself as any kind of authority on Sonagachi. The article you comment on is one of hundreds I have written. If you know anything about journalism and Kolkata, you can work out how much time it takes to get access to this kind of story and if you take a closer look at my blog you will notice just how much time I spend in India. Whether you find my experiences subjective or not, the article has generated a lot of discussion, including this exchange and that to my mind is a good thing. As to the ‘freak’ incident, I completely disagree. DMSC is all about money and exploitation and this seemed as good an example as any to illustrate the terrible state of affairs in Sonagachi. A perfect representation of greedy, and to my mind typical NGO behavior in India and beyond. As far my significance in the greater scheme of things is concerned, it is of course entirely irrelevant – the women of Sonagachi continue to be exploited, Indian society continues to look anywhere but there and your comment does nothing to address the specific problems on the subcontinent vis a vis sexuality, equality and the right to personal freedom. Perhaps quite the opposite in fact. Hence your quote by Vivekananda is entirely appropriate. My story at least gives one woman – Champa Das – a platform to tell us about her life. You on the other hand appear to waste energy on detracting from the indefensible – the exploitation of the weakest in society. Sincerely, Tom

  137. 137

    Dear friends,

    As per All of yours comments…

    What can we do now???
    Sexualism is legal in india?
    If the people have a sex with sonakachi sex workers, will they would have suffer with an HIV/AIDS????

  138. 138

    It should be do if all are accept.

  139. 139

    Hi Tom,
    Congratulations on your blog and i really appreciate the time and effort you put in to write this blog.I have lived in northern part of Kolkata for 20 before leaving the city.Everything you figured about starting from sex workers to NGO’s are damn true.And I would say the story is almost same in other parts of India too,Im sure you are aware of it.We are growing as a nation.Bright side has become so bright today that the society has no time to look at the dark side.As a result its becoming darker.What can be solution of these problems?Raising lots and lots of International donation? Organizing fashion show for sex workers? legalizing it or Organizing HIV awareness camps?I believe the solution is simple but executing it will be a very challenging one and can take more than a lifetime.That is educating the society.Every man should learn to respect women.Every parent should teach their sons how to behave with women rather than teaching their daughters what to wear.Hope there will be a day when these people will be one of us(currently they are not considered),will have a family and will be able to hold their children high.Fingers crossed.

  140. 140

    Hey, thanks for your kind comments and great to hear you thought the article was good.

  141. 141

    all this things are very unhelthy

  142. 142

    It is great that they are relaxing the hardcore people

  143. 143

    Guys and Tom,
    Look this is entire scenario is not as simple as it seems. Prostitutes are prostitutes because there are people who want sex AND people get what they want because prostitues are prostitutes. (I hope I’m able to convey myself). Secondly we need to understand that there’s no clear demarkation between women who were forced into this buisness and those who came at their own will so you really can’t pull everyone out,can you? Would that be justified? Definately there is a strong need for an immediate and efficient action on the issue but, HOW DO YOU DO THAT? It isn’t really not that simple(for the reasons mentioned above),is it? Plus what do you expect that poor woman to do after being pulled out of that brothel? She’s been in that brothel since she was just a kid. I guess it’d be better if we focus towards improving their standard of living and educating their children instead of aiming to eradicate this buisness all at once.
    P.S- I am no one to be believed. It’s just what I think and believe of and about this sad issue.

  144. 144

    Dear James, thank you very much for your comment and contribution to this long running discussion. As you can see there have been some 140 comments so far. The story gets about 8000 hits a month and I flag many comments because some content is inappropriate or obscene. My story is not about the complete eradication of prostitution in Kolkata, more generally in India, or elsewhere. It is merely a window into one particular brothel in Kolkata and a brief insight into the lives of the women there who suffer the abuse of a specific NGO which exploits them.
    The comments received over the years run the entire gamut of opinion on the subject and some contributors do call for unrealistic solutions as you point out. That said, most of the regular workers in Sonagachi, as far as I am aware, are not there by their own “choice’, except for freelancers that come into the area daily and then go home when they have finished work. The situations of the tens of thousands of sex workers who live in the area is very different, most have been trafficked – there are many Bangladeshi, Burmese and Nepali women there as well as Indians, and most have been abused beyond the the usual abuse that comes with the job.
    I personally think that to improve the lot of the women in places like Sonagachi, they need to be given rights first and that the clients need to be discriminated against and that prostitution should be legalized. For this to happen a shift in perception in India as a whole vis a vis sexuality and women’s rights needs to take place and I see no progress towards this since I wrote the story almost a decade ago.
    I do agree with your stance in some ways. But I also want to give people with other opinions a voice on this forum, unless those opinions are abusive or discriminating. My article is there to encourage debate, not to offer complete solutions. In this sense, your own contribution is as valued and appreciated as all the other 140 posts. Best, Tom

  145. 145

    now in sonagachi sex worker are forcefuly teke your all money . I was sufferd.

  146. 146

    hello Tom, first of all i would like to thanks you for publishing such a nice article, here i expressing my view related to such human trafficking or a sex business.For me its just a killing of humanity, i don’t think that any of this girl are enjoying this work, they are in thing because they are in compulsion,i never visited such area and i never want too,but at the same time i feels sad for those people who go there for there need,to fulfill there need lot of innocent girl thrown forcibly into this profession but,people went and enjoy there night but they never think that why they are in this profession,what compulsion do they have.
    we all belongs to good class of society we people have every thing because our parents sacrifice there young age to built our life,do they have such life,can they give such life to there children’s,no never because there parents are not with them that’s why they are sacrificing there life.
    tom, i personally believe that instead of going there and wasting money on doing sex,people should use that money in there rehabilitation.once again i am saying that this is my personal view.

  147. 147

    Dear Tom,

    Lets fight for legalisation. Nothing will help unless it is legalize. There is demand for sex and it will be fulfilled either mutual or forcefully. By legalising this business we can protect all of them. When we have accepted Sunny Leone…We will accept Sex workers as part of society and family…….

  148. 148


    Belated thanks for your comments. Good contribution to this debate.

  149. 149

    Hi rkp,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, legalizing would solve many problems, not just in Sonagachi. It would protect sex workers, at least in some cases, from predators, not just clients but also officials and police and would regulate the industry and therefore also set our clear rules for clients, as well as reduce their risks. More integration into mainstream society appears to be the way to go.

  150. 150
    Atul Bhardwaj:

    Most of the sex workers are trafficked from Bangladesh that’s why sex is so cheap in Sonagachi this trafficking should be checked so that number of sex workers decrease and they will have a good working environment like use of condoms should be mandatory.
    though so many NGO’s are working still use of condom is at very less rate and when one gets HIV disease though she is not being informed this is a shameful thing

  151. 151

    Dear Atul,

    Thanks for your comment. yes, it is shocking that NGOs continue to work in Songachi, happily take tens of thousands of dollars of donors and yet the situation of the women working there does not change at all. A drive to campaign against donors throwing more money at the organizations might actually improve the situation of the sex workers.

  152. 152

    Tom: a gud artical. i just want to know that what u mean by legalizing

  153. 153

    Dear Raj,
    If you legalize prostitution (it will certainly not get tired, go to sleep and disappear), all the middle men who feed on the trade, the pimps, the police and the NGOs will no longer to squeeze money out of the business. The women and men who work in the sex business would have some protection (by the law) and more control over their bodies and lives. This doesn’t just go for India. Prostitution exists absolutely everywhere and is almost always illegal.

  154. 154

    Hello Tom, Majority of Indians basically suffer from illiteracy, greed, corruption, inhumanity, idiosyncrasy, no self respect, having weird mindsets and outlook towards self and society on the whole… though it may sound cliche, nobody can deny it. Unless some of the very basic grass-root systems go through a total upheaval and change for the better, which is highly unlikely in the near future, many of the wrong doings of the society including atrocities in the name of flesh trade be it sonagachi or elsewhere will remain as it is, if not worse. Nevertheless 10% of responsible humans at least try to make some difference in their own efforts with their contributions which do help the cause in a positive note one way or the other. Your article will be a food for thought for many. Regards.

  155. 155

    Dear Author,
    Unfortunately, I am compelled to reply by the 120+ replies published here. Most of them are not in the context and only shows the popularity of your article. I wish to put a few lines here about my personal experience at Sonagachi. Being an outsider to Kolkata, I was totally unaware about the Asia’s largest red light area. The Sonagachi is divided into two sectors for prostitution. The first one is usual road side customer pick up, where the expenditure for an hour will be 100 – 300 Indian Rupees. The women are shabbily dressed and foul mouthed. If you ask to them about their age none of them will tell you above 24 years, surprisingly. The second one is in multistory buildings with all the possible luxuries like TV and Home theater, Refrigerator, Laptop, Air Conditioner, Microwave oven and chilled beer with delicious food and a lady or an old man as servant. The room size is big enough for a king size bed, two sofa sets, tables and place for the girl/woman to dance. The prize tag for an hour to do intercourse starts from Rs.2500 to infinite. The other segment is one hour naked dance in front of a group of customers. It cost much more than the intercourse. The beer and eatables are additional excluding the servant tips. Now, I have a few points to clarify:
    1. I agree with the legalization of sexual trade. But why not make a licence for the customers also?
    This will help in two way. Either the business will under-grounded or the entire customer base of red light area will be paying large amount of alimony to their wives after the divorce. In this case again those customers will reach back in this red light area and the business will flourish.
    2. If anyone ask me whether the girls/women of those are enjoying the sex with their customers? Around 99% of the people working as office staff/employees are unsatisfied or not enjoying their job role. But still continuing in the same job. I believe the same may be same applicable here.
    3. Now about the children of those women. If they are girls, most of them will continue in the same profession and boys will become part of the gangs and die young. That is the natural rule for every species. The environment and one’s ability to succeed create future (may be most of you disagree, but that is the fact).
    4. NGOs time. The easiest and profitable business is NGO. Struggle a little bit for first three years, the rest of the life is like a king. Sit inside an office, give out franchisee on an amount, receive charity from different foundations and invite all those westerners those who thinks India is the place where all the inhumanity and sin taking place.
    5. FOR THOSE FOREIGN NGOs & PEOPLE WORKING INDIA : Can any of these christian missionaries work in middle east countries where women freedom is almost nil? or in Mexico, Brazil or Italy where so many people are affected by drugs and mafia? Not feasible coz the first one is rich Islamic countries and the second is Christian and PURE.

    So Mr Tom, you have seen the plight of one side of the Sonagachi as well as India and this World. I am not raising a finger at you or your article.The mind set and preference of each and everyone decides how to live their life and leave this world. In India or anywhere, neither every hungry and poor woman/girl is a prostitute nor every female is treated shabbily and shoddily. Unfortunately or fortunately people want to see the shade of evil in every activities of other part of the world may be the only reason behind such an article.

    PS : I went Sonagachi to visit my Girl friend whom I befriended through Cell Phone in 2003. I got all those details through that girl and never had sex with any of the women at Sonagachi.

  156. 156

    Dear Abhi,

    Thanks for your comments, none of which are unfortunate. The article was primarily written to report on the abuse NGOs inflict on sex workers in Sonagachi. Obviously, these kinds of situations replicate themselves all over the planet. India is by no mean unique. And I have reported from many Asian countries, and, as you suggest, am not out to malign India in any way.
    Most importantly, it is the readers of this blog who keep coming back and leave comments, many of them fascinating, astute and to the point, like yours. It’s a lively discussion about a subject that is obviously close to the hearts of the people of West Bengal, as most of the comments originate there.

  157. 157


    I think you should go as a 100% client to know the details…anyway if you are writing this article for an oscar wining movie..definitely you will get it…best of luck,but can you please write something regarding terrorism which is more problematic in india than prostitution.Prostitution is worlds oldest profession …it was there evrywhere and it will be there everywhere because nature made human like that only.California is the largest prostitution area and largest porn movie maker in the world….you can go there also for your subject.Thank you very much for your concern.

  158. 158

    I found your article very well writen. I have been working with the women in Sonagachi and other red light areas in the city for 3 years. The stories are the same none of these women choose this. Poverty, Traffiking, Male Dominace; that is how these women end up here. I see more and more evidence of DMSC exploiting these vunrebale women. It is not just DMSC that exploit many of the police rape these women as well.
    These women need a choice, they need to be given the right to choose something else if they so desire. It can not be about rescue but rather about choice. Fortunatley there are dignified options for women wanting to leave the sex trade. There are organisations (few and small but they do exist)that are providing these alternatives. But I agree what really needs to change is society’s attitude to women. Until women are seen as equal members of society, not chatel that can be brought or sold, nothing will change.

  159. 159
    sabyasachi barman:

    iam a student of ruaral managemenment with medical background is their any scope for improving health for sex worker

  160. 160
    nishant sinha:

    rural management student wants to do internship over their and really want to take care over child sex abuse

  161. 161
    Usain Bermain:

    The NGO’s are minting money by peddling the tragic lives of others, I should know I’ve worked in various NGO’s for the past 10 years. At the end of the day this is what happens when you have a country which is no stranger to abject poverty. The only solution to this problem is economic progress and not just for the rich to get richer.

    Can you imagine being a father or mother and watching your child die because of starvation. Knowing that you will never make enough money to feed them properly let alone clothe them or put shelter over their heads. Go kiss your mother and father for being one of the lucky few to have never been born into these circumstances. Think twice before judging someone else, you have been lucky and you should use it constructively rather than just pointing fingers. (Be the change you wish to see in the world)

  162. 162

    THanks Tom. You cleared a lot today. Thanks for shedding light on the terrible condition of society. We need more like you here.

  163. 163

    I received this wonderful comment in the mail today. At a time of soul searching in India – in the wake of the Delhi gang rape – and incredibly backward and discriminatory statements by some of India’s ultra conservative politicians and religious leaders, these kind of comments go a long way to show what a brilliant and pluralistic country India is.

    Comment follows….

  164. 164

    Dear Tom,

    At the onset, let me congratulate you for a fantastic narrative of your experience, during your visit to Sonagachi. I am from the city of Kolkata (Calcutta), but currently settled in New Delhi. I grew up in a locality in north Calcutta itself and by the time I moved into my young teenage years, I had already heard the name of the place through hushed tone from here and there. Over a period of time, while reading through some Bengali literature, I once again came across references to this place, several times. By the age of 17, when I was in my high school, the name of the place was quite prominently engraved in my mind, although I never came to realise till then, whether this place was fictional or for real. I did my college from another North Kolkata location, Shovabazar, a stone’s throw from Sonagachi and still I remained ignorant of this place. My reason for sharing with you a brief of my growing up days is to just draw your attention to the fact that Sonagachi existed then (during my younger days) in the mid 90s, it is there for over a 100 years now and will stay there for many more years. Mid-nineties, growing up in India, youngsters like me had no access to the internet and the www then, although in use in US and the developed world, was not as broad-based as today with information of every place, person or thing available at the drop of a hat. Thanks to internet and the social media, more and more people are getting aware of places like Sonagachi and the plight of these sex workers making their ends meet. And internet has today become the primary source of information for many, the way you have narrated your experience in your blog. I have travelled to Amsterdam, the only place on earth (do correct me if I am wrong) where sex work is an organised trade. Sex workers are treated not as a piece of crap but as thorough professionals offering any customer service against payments. There are guilds and associations set up in the city of Amsterdam which work as a unified system, even allowing the sex workers to represent in the government and participate in any referendum like any other citizen. Sex, which is one of our basic needs, a need which we cannot do without, same like food, water and shelter, unfortunately is still a taboo in India. The man of the house may go out and have sex freely, but it will not be discussed at home. Now, that’s first order hypocrisy. Until and unless we, the people, change our way of looking at things, we will not be able to bring about any change (irrespective of the number of NGOs working there, wasting millions of dollars of grants from western philanthropists). Legalising sex in anywhere across the world has its upside as well as downside. Considered as one of the oldest trade, centuries before India became the largest exporter of services, sex trade still remains where it was centuries ago, simply because it is more politically sensitive than socially. A recognised trade would mean registration of service providers, filing of tax, documenting records of customers, et al, which politician in India would risk to come back home with a receipt from, “Julie Sexjob Pvt Ltd”? What I feel should be done at the earliest to help the kids of the sex workers, so that at least they do not grow up in a place plagued with diseases, hunger and sex-traps, is to:
    a) help kids of sex workers to get absorbed in boarding schools (to keep them away from the place and nurture them mentally and spiritually)
    b) help teenagers to get trained in vocational trades, giving them alternative options for income generation
    c) help all those sex workers who want to start a new life to get absorbed in the world outside, in the main stream by facilitating vocational trades like nursing, weaving, etc.
    Any change that is possible, can only be brought about by the government through a strong policy decision. No matter how many NGOs end up working in Sonagachi or other parts of the world, nothing would change if the government is unmoved by the plight of these people.

    Best wishes. Do return to India for some more interesting stories and insights. Dont bother about what people around have to say, but I know, if you truly love your country, then let it be known to the world outside how much adverse the situation is in there…


  165. 165

    Something else on the subject of violence against women from Cambodia…

  166. 166

    Dear sir,
    i want to do service for the nation.I really touched by god in this area prostitution.
    I want chance to work for a small change in their lives .
    I have no idea about how and what to do,Please if anyone already doing service Inform me
    working in TATA STEEL

    I will put my best efforts .Thanking you.

  167. 167
    Shikari Tudu:

    Dear sir
    Thank you

  168. 168
    Sanjay Gupta:

    I had been to Kolkata and ultimately the Sogaachhi. I reached Kolkata on 22.1.2013. My first visit to Sonagachhi was on 23.1.2013. The girls was nice and cooperative and there was no fraud at all. They, I feel, are better people than many others who are not in such a profession. I was charged Rs.800/- for an hour and that one hour with a good girl was very peaceful and soothing. Thereafter I visited the area and enjoyed the girls many a times. All the times, I found no fraud. At last, I would like to say that if one wants to lead life peacefully, go there frequently and time and again and be healthy.

  169. 169

    Dear readers, I get many, many comments like this. Usually I don’t publish messages from people who frequent Sonagachi as clients, but perhaps I should change this. In the current light of sex abuses being in the media and on people’s minds in India more than they are usually, it is perhaps necessary to give a voice to the clients. In today’s India, the level of sexual frustration, especially but exclusively amongst young men has reached such outrageous proportions that some argue places like Sonagachi reduce the number of crimes committed against women elsewhere.

  170. 170

    Hi, Prachi Verma,

    I have gone through your views about Sonagachhi. I appreciate you for your views. Your views are very much positive towards curbing the rape incidents. Not only this, by virtue of activities in Sonagachhi, rape incidents are minimal but also sex workers are getting their livelihood. Most of the people indicate their resentment say that this “sex work” should be banned but they do not understand that what will happen to those ladies who are illitrate. If they go for some work, they are asked to do sex work at their work places by their employers to please them. So what is the harm in doing this work on their own.

    I thank you very much for your valueable views. I think that if all of us think in such a positive manner, the crime can be minimised in our society. For any further discussion on this topic, I may be contacted at my e-mail address please : or

    Thanks please.

  171. 171

    I have gone through your views about Sonagachhi. I appreciate you for your views. Your views are very much positive towards curbing the rape incidents. Not only this, by virtue of activities in Sonagachhi, rape incidents are minimal but also sex workers are getting their livelihood.

  172. 172
    manju das:

    i also want to work in sonagachi

  173. 173

    Yes use of condom is necessary to avoid aids and preventing into your valuable life

  174. 174

    Dear sir,
    I want chance to work for children of prostitutes and educate them..
    I have no idea about how and what to do, Please if anyone already doing service Inform me
    name and address Nirmals

    I will put my best efforts to help and support ..Thanking you.

  175. 175

    Govt. should help these people.If anyone wants to help these people contact me.

  176. 176

    why people are closed their eyes, this is reality.Don’t ignore this.

  177. 177

    Hello Friends I Am Mr.Rahul(27yrs) President of CCTEC. We Have an NGO. By the name CCTEC Registered under Society Act. 21/1860. (2003). Basically Workiking to provide technical training for poor students but Before some time I read about prostitute girls. and i’m very serious about this avery one have a bad region to do this work. and i am decided to help us but before i want to marry with a prostitute girl. but i need a commitment from us she have to help me on this work. Please any budy Know this kind of prostitute girl please call me and help me for this work…….

    Mr. Rahul Raj
    President of CCTEC

    Mobile: 07631077310

  178. 178

    please do not rape an innocent girl for your sexual pleasure……. instead go to sonagachi… pay their their fees in a decent way and get yourself satisfied. bur always keep in mind that they too are humans….

  179. 179
    Debasish Chattaraj:

    Every one has mind…….plz do not innocent girls for your sexual pleasure…….we are human beings……..

  180. 180

    I am disgusted by the comments and the apparent falseness, chauvinism and derogation associated with them. How can you people in sane mind say this things, sex-working can be made legal, but you cannot force young girls from far-off places into the business and vouch for it’s legality. It can only be legal when an ADULT with his/her full consent wants to get involved in it.

    How can people in sane mind say such stuff, I mean what has the world come to?

  181. 181
    jayson sam:

    My lord,

    This is the ugliest and worst picture of Calcatta but it is truth which we have to accept. I am shocked to see this all and read the story of many people from calcatta. It is really a issue that should be taken on for discussion by the parliment of India,. By tis way we may be banned in near future by developed countries for entering their country without any medical certification known to their approval. This is at large very very big issue of our society. Those who ae are working for upliftment of these women please include me for your help It will be great if you do so.

  182. 182

    What can I say I am thouroughly Shocked.
    Children are our most precious gift, that anyone could do this to a minor is totally abhorrent.
    I really don,t understand why the police are not involved and raid the whole area.
    Close the whole place down.
    Guess I live in.the UK. Have a different perspective, women are equal!.
    Life is not cheap.
    Lost with what to say crying!.

  183. 183

    The last thing India needs is more well-meaning white people telling it how to fix things. Tom Vater probably has good intentions, but he is utterly clueless about the society that he is reporting on. I would refer anyone who is interested to the novel “The Ugly American” which has an excellent exposition on this type of thinking.

    Sonagachi, HIV, poverty, and human trafficking are all issues that India has to fix from within. The DMSC might seem bumbling and inept to the slum tourist, but organizations like that have the best chance to make a difference.

  184. 184

    If some of you want to save some ones life then take a video camera inside the room (where the girl live) then take the footage of the nearest location,and ask all type of question like:how she came here,what she feels and what she want….then submit the footage to a news channel and human right and our C.M……then look what can happend…

  185. 185
    jawed khan:

    what about Afghanistan prostitution if some one know about that plz i wnat to join them.

  186. 186

    I am a 2nd year student but going through this website what i think know we the people of India are helpless for this sex workers even if we try to help them out from this, politics of the government comes in between us and we move back.Only wat we can do for this helpless sex workers is to frame a strong government which can take strong action to close this prostitution in india and make our country clean.once these prostitution
    ends up there will be very less patient of Hiv in India.I want to help so wat can I do for you.

  187. 187

    Kolkata was like shit have tasted shit mam you are really city

  188. 188

    Dear Readers,
    This is a profession of many thousand years. During the era of Chandragupta Maurya this trade was legalized and the society was very decent. We have to follow the thousand years tradition and prostitution should be legalized to curb rape etc and which will also help the needy to earn their livelihood. The most developed nations around the world follow our past tradition to make the society free from rape etc.Our politicians should learn from the West and and prostitution can not be stopped my making a law which may help only their Vote Bank.

  189. 189
    Ankush purulia:

    Hi I am Ankush,
    I had the oppurtunity os having sex with jamuna, she opened her panties, and now i have AIDS.
    So more normal people go there, and have AIDS from Vagina of Sonagachi..
    Bye , Ankush.. Nana Patekar

  190. 190

    Can some one give me contacts of few NGOs working in Sonagachi area. I would like to contribute if I like them

  191. 191
    Bhaskar Rao:

    It is not possible to stop prostitution,
    Because there are prostitutes I don’t like to say this word prostitutes, they are trained sexual enter trainers, because they are sacrificing their life They can relive tension of people those who have various kind of sexual fantasy and urge and give them satisfaction mental peace and happiness, they are trained and they can only do this,.
    They entertain all kinds of people like students, drunkards, criminals or any one, there is no cast creed rich or poor , pure socialism, all get their tension relived and feel happy.
    What they need, respect , good facilities and protection form Public and Government.

    Our kings were giving respect to these peoples in our old history , now also is it is possible, that is proved by Sunny Leone. Now all are praising her, most of the people who are familiar with inter net knows that she is a sex entertainer and practicing her trade in abroad. I pray god all our Sonagachi sex entertainers must get bright future like her,
    for that they must get respect , guidance ,and facilities. .
    I like to do some thing , for NGO doing this kind of work kindly write me Hope some will write me Bhasc

  192. 192

    Dear Tom,

    My company is accepting submissions from it’s employees to sponsor Projects run by Organizations world-wide focused on Education. I am very much inclined to support NGOs who are helping out children of sex workers and under-aged sex-workers in Sonagachi. Needless to say I am finding it very difficult to trust any organization after reading articles similar to yours about NGOs working in Sonagachi.

    Can you please help me out in pointing to some NGOs, the deadline for the submissions is May 11, 2014. Please remember the focus is Education. I am waiting for your reply

    I can disclose more info on myself and the company if you can write back to me via mail.

  193. 193

    Our organisation works on women empowerment. We are seeking help form any person who wish to help for the sex workers at Kharagpur. Condition of sex workers of Kharagpur is very distress.Really interested person can call me. we are looking forward to hear from the social activists.

  194. 194

    Awesome post.

  195. 195

    Awesome article.

  196. 196

    Dear Tom, pls give me an opportunity to work along side with you. I will be really happy and obliged to do so

  197. 197

    Hi Tom,
    I came across your article as part of my search for literature on sexual violence in ethnic minorities, which is my dissertation in Women & Gender studies. Even though your article was written years ago, nothing has changed in the Sinagachi or similar places anywhere in India. I strongly support your comments on the NGOs working in this area. I must confess that I used to think in the same mentality. Its easy to look at the situation as one would examine a specimen in a petri dish and then to go back to modern creature comforts. And sometimes too much exposure and deep examination can numb our faculties to the horror that we first experience.
    This horror must be kept alive if we are to make progress. Horror that women are still considered unequal to men and that women are still fighting for their rights in every area of their lives. Yes, sex is a basic need, prostitution is the oldest trade but the difference and inequality between genders is older still. Unless we consciously work against this negative mentality towards women, we are simply treating the symptoms and not the root of the sickness.
    The many writers who have offered help can actively contribute by examining their own lives and seeing where they can make changes in the thoughts and attitudes and practicing these in every area of their own lives. This kind of reformed individual can then become a strong building block in the fight for rights and against inequality and positive results will start to happen. Without such individual changes we continue to add to the emotional blabber that is absolutely futile and will not benefit these women or anyone.

    P.S. I will be referring to your article in my write-up. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if required. I am an Indian living in New Zealand.

  198. 198

    Dear Amrita,

    Thanks for your letter and thoughtful comments. Do please send me your write-up or perhaps post it here as quite a few readers interested in the subject come through here.



  199. 199

    Thanks for your letter and thoughtful comments. Do please send me your write-up

  200. 200

    Dear all my name is manoj .. i would like to work and join in this ngo project and help as well please mail me all the details regarding this awaiting confirmation… i live in chennai.. my call back number will be 9087127818 i want to do something in life for the birth we are in this world .. should be useful for others indeed…

  201. 201

    It is the best article so far on Sonagachi . Truly it is another Kolkata in Kolkata . It is really painful to know how they carry their daily lively hood in utter misery .

  202. 202

    Tom, after having read 201 comments from different people with different views… I have very little left to be said… but a lot on… how to fight back in present situation… every body feels they are doing a great job on this issue, in fact no one is doing any thing other than witnessing these ill fated sex slave’s trauma and sufferings. These people neither have the courage nor have the strength to do any thing in order to stop, protect, bring them to the main stream of society…. I work for street children… I have no NGO…. or receive any help from any such org. I work alone, with my limited strength… In the year 2012 I decided to work for the children from sonagachhi… and this was a dreadful experience….my biggest battle was against these so called NGO like DMSC, sanlaap etc. Every day I received at least 200 threat calls from different people. Police, political leaders, NGOs,social activist, house owners, mafias, Traffickers, pimps and who not. I wanted and spoke about the issue with a perspective… that…. If can refrain the next generation to come in to the trade…. we can eradicate the trade nothing less than 70% of it. Ha ha ha ….what I came to know that every one is involved in to this issue for their piece of meat, including those so called NGOs. Although I’m still working for those children, but every day I have to brush my shoulder with every one involved here to make a little space for those children of lesser God.

  203. 203

    Hi, I’m a photographer. Wanna do a small project there.How can I?

  204. 204

    It is good awareness lesson for us. I amd a Govt. servant. I want to save girls and childrens from Sex Traffickers, i want all details of Sonagachi in calcutta,I am ready to work along with you.I want to make HEALTHY, WEALTHY and PROSPEROUS INDIA for US. pl. mail me all the details about Sonagachi. and i am ready to serve to you.

  205. 205

    I find the the plight of the women in Sonagachi very sad and painful. Surely, there must be other organisations willing to help them?

    International lobbying would certainly make the Indian govt take notice. This needs to be helped along by the media.

  206. 206

    Greetings! You did a very nice piece of work, congratulations.But do you really think this will make any impact when half the top brass actually feeds off of these women? Ask any Indian man of above 40 about Sonagachi. They will say “these unfortunate women need help” or “Government should stop it.”.That’s fucking it. Until everyone of us get hellbent on giving these ladies a proper life nothing is going to happen.Still, keep up the good work.

  207. 207

    I have read your article. The issues which was highlighted is undeniable. Starting from Mr. Dr.Jana to the director who is also famous as Bacchu Da have globalised sonagachi with their own vested interests. DMSC is a synonyms of organise prostitution.
    Here, fashion show is mentioned in the article but i would like to tell that every quarter year, a refreshment picnic is organised especially in Digha at Hotel Larica where they organise “Mehfil” in which the director and his associates dance,drink and enjoy sex with their female teammates. These females exchange sex for jobs, promotion and even for salaries, which are kept due upto 3 months.

    I wonder how Mrs. Gates, found the gate of DMSC.
    Anyway if anyone for the purpose of and in the interest of the sex workers wants to get information, may contact me +919804340019

  208. 208

    Free sex in sonagachhi like sex in animals much dangerous

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  210. 210

    I have read this article and read many more.l cannot how people can treat them in such a way.many of the girls are below18 .why the media is not taking any action inspire all the information is available to them…..

  211. 211

    Hi Tom,
    This is indeed a sad and scary article. I believe there are limitations ( a lot indeed) that limits rehabilitation of sex workers. But I guess, all their children have to rehabilitated to different places far from the slums, given better education and slowly make all sorts of prostitution illegal with far more strict rules than the vague one we have now. I believe in places like Sonagachi & Kamathipura.. prostitution in these areas, I believe are passed on to their children by their own mothers who know no other means of livelihood than selling themselves.
    I think the NGOs apart from providing promotion on STDs should also introduce the women there the outside world where people can live with dignity and hope which might kindle interest in women to rehabilitate and live a better life.
    I wish I could be of any help..

    Heal the World, Make it a better place..

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  214. 214

    Hi Well Wisher, reckon you had it coming. 50000 Roupies seems an appropriate amount to take off you for wanting to visit Sonagachi. Presumably you weren’t there to eat a thali.

  215. 215

    I know this article is old but I just wanted to say what a good job you did of reporting. I have only recently heard of Sonagachi and and what goes on but from my research it looks as though we are not talking about an issue of prostitution, but the issue of trafficking, slavery and rape. Reading the stories of some of these young girls is heart breaking and some of the comments here make me feel sick to my stomach – especially the one you posted at the end of this article. It is shocking that there is still next to nothing being done to stop so many young girls being forced into these disgusting conditions and the horrible lifestyle. Just to be clear, i have nothing against sex work – I live in Australia where it is legal and sex workers actually have rights and make the informed decisions to enter the industry, but I am STRONGLY against what goes on in Sonagachi which as I stated earlier is not prostitution, but sex trafficing and rape. Any ‘customer’ of these victims should be disgusted with themselves.

  216. 216

    There is no way u can stop them.. Here in our country even the graduates find it hard to survived in this competetive world. Even the well educated ..n well protected family leaves under threat. We cant even come above our old reforms to marriage in same cast n religion. India is still a long way to go. Only thing we can do is to stop more Innocent grls from falling into such traps by promoting the alternate option to save themselves from such tragic situations. We cant promise anything good for those who r already into that profession bt atlst we can ensure no more will face it. And save those who r born in brothels.

  217. 217

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    My name is Gopal and I recently moved back to India after staying in US for a long time. I am starting an orphanage in Hyderabad area. I am thinking about hiring few of these unfortunate women as cooks and maids in the orphanage, yes they can bring their kids along with them. So if you know any of these unfortunate women, please connect them to me.
    My email address is

  218. 218

    @ Author:

    This was one of the very minority of articles which tries to show some REAL life, and definitely not what people would want to see. Sadly, in all these years nothing much has changed. Although new ways of corruption had opened up. My friend (former colleague, actually) was blocked from a well-deserved promotion because he wasn’t being able to supply good-quality escorts for the boss. Eventually a new lady got it. I wouldn’t want to imagine why. Sonagachi@work for ya.

    @ Readers:

    How, my dear glossy-eyed dreaming-of-heaven-on-earth brothers and sisters, how do you even consider ‘changing the situation’ when this world is endlessly generating opportunities to take advantage of other people? That’s the definition of humanity right there, because only humans do this to fellow humans. Is it really a surprise that NGOs would actually try to profit, nay, do profit from the very beings they ‘protect’?

    Face it. India is a overpopulated, undereducated huge market. And sex is the best (and cheapest) product up for sell. Who the fuck are you to spin the world the other way?

    For those who want to legalize prostitution – are you sure you’re just saying it purely out of your heart’s goodness or are you just trying to find a safer brothel? I wouldn’t trust a man about sex. Nature had not built humans that way.

    If there’s anything a government (with big balls) can do is to establish a nationalized chain of brothels cum safe-havens right next to redlight districts. A government who did that would forever etch their names in gold letters in history of mankind. Unfortunately, in the next few months all members of that government will be assassinated and the brothel-shop cum safe-havens burned. With girls inside. That’s humanity 101.

    What’s my point? If you can’t do anything, shut the fuck up.

  219. 219

    Yes, nothing changes. I was just talking about the Snowden film Citizenfour, which won an Oscar recently. The film describes events that shook the world two years ago – mass surveillance by the state, syphoning up of personal information etc. The most remarkable thing about the Oscar win is thta nothing, but absolutely nothing has changed since then, none of the intrusive laws have been rolled back.

    We all have access to information these days. We can publicize any injustice or atrocity to a wide audience and the world (and politics) keeps turning as if we are living in total darkness, our heads stuck in gadgets with flushing lights all day long. I am guessing Sonagachi will still be around in 20 years time, pretty much unchanged from the way it is today.

  220. 220

    Prostitution and more so abuse of women is now way unique to India but when we consider stats like gender empowerment ratio,honour killing of women more so for rape victims,incredible apathy of law and authority,innumerable gang rapes undoubtedly Indians have one of the worst if not worst perverted mindset.remember Duryodhan , he stripped his own sister in law in public and nobody protested and the crowd present were all noble elements of society.Can only happen in India

  221. 221

    hey, I am from Delhi, as I was just surfing for Sonagachi as its a famous red light district, your article gave me an insight of the reality behind this area. I very much appreciate your stand in creating awareness for the inhumane acts being performed in such areas especally in India and we, the public of India need to enlighten ourselves on this emerging issue.
    Thanks for sharing this article, and do notify me if u post any such articles anywhere over the web

  222. 222

    My point of view, I won’t allow women from my family to do such things, no matter wat. Prostituition must be wholly eradicated in India. Sex workers will be employed by our govt, and they should be treated with all rights.
    If there’s anyone who really needs a red-light area, he & his family will be bought here to service those who feel the same as he does.

  223. 223

    I pledge everyday, not just me, but every Indian takes an oath that every woman on Indian land be my sister. We pledge that we’ll protect our country & its people from all evil, both foreign & domestic.
    We are forcing our women into prostitution or we create such situations that they have no other choice rather than being a sex worker

  224. 224

    Never call that name on them!
    There are the the part of this crazy fucking society who have suffered! Suffered a lot of pain that this freakin dumbass higher people can never think of!
    I m sure you guys can’t survive a day with that mental breakdown!
    This society, Its all about money! That shit makes people cautious!! And this money makes them live like this!
    They are theoretically living literally dead!
    God you dipped good people in sick society!
    #good article brother

  225. 225
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