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.

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 .

218 thoughts on “Welcome to Sonagachi – Calcutta’s largest brothel area is thriving

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 .

  7. 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…

  8. 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.



  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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 bhasc@yahoo.com Hope some will write me Bhasc

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

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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…

  19. 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.

  20. 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!.

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

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

  24. hi,
    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….

  25. 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

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

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

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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 : singhalss60@rediffmail.com or gudboiss60@rediffmail.com

    Thanks please.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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…


  35. 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….

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

  37. 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)

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

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

Leave a Reply