Asia’s largest red-light district, Sonagachi is also known as the “Golden Tree”.
It is one of the largest red light districts in Calcutta. It has several hundred multistory brothels built in the winding lanes with small ‘apartments’, and is home for almost 10,000 sex workers. 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. 10,000 women, from whom many of them are trafficked into the country from Bangladesh or Nepal, work in Sonagachi. The place got globally known, when an American documentary film, ‘Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids’ won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 2004.
In a country like India which is overcrowded things don’t come in small measures. 2.5 million Women and children (around 500,000 prostitutes in India are under 16) and 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.
When we talk about these red light areas we generally associate with the ‘Lower’ strata of the society, like the taxi drivers, rickshaw pullers etc. But it is mostly flocked by the high profile ‘Big Shots’.
The women in sonagachi who are sex workers are surrounded by men either sitting in shops or walking around them; they are mainly clients or pimps who make a deal for these ladies out here… In the alleys of this red light area in Kolkata every one is a “Sex Trader “they are the ones who make a deal.
Flesh is the trade and the sale is on 24*7.
When a virgin girl happens to be trafficked into the realms of this flesh trade, her profile is uploaded on private websites for auctioning. Surprisingly, she is sold out at an exorbitant price point mostly to men of her father’s age.
The government labels it legal and the fate of these girls who are under 16 and the women, are legally exploited in exchange of either money or favors for the family back home.
As ‘Dusk’ falls it’s time for business to begin.
“Most of them are not here by choice”.
They here to make money and give a better live to their loved ones.
P.S. – As long as there are men in this city, there will be business for women here. After all this is sonagachi, says a sex worker.