Providing Assistance to Sex Workers in Navi Mumbai’s Red Light District
NGOs across India are empowering sex workers towards a life of freedom.
Two months ago, a colleague and I were given the opportunity to visit Sahaara Charitable Society to talk to their CEO and employees and visit their educational and all-in-one centers (education, nutrition, healthcare, counseling) in Navi Mumbai’s Red-Light District. This was a truly interesting, inspiring and humbling experience. I naturally felt compelled to share what I learned during my visit and to highlight the amazing work the organization does.
Sex Work in India
Estimates of the number of commercial sex workers in India vary greatly from 3 million to up to 20 million! Of which between 1.5 and 16 million are believed to be or to have been victims of sex trafficking!
Sadly, the story of commercial sex workers starts very early, “the younger the better” to quote a trafficker. Take a second to read that quote again… Indeed, in India 40% of the victims of trafficking are adolescents and children.
In the worst cases, girls and women are “kidnapped or lured from their homes, forced into sexual slavery through a combination of coercion, torture, starvation and rape. Typically they are taken from rural communities and relocated to cities hundreds of miles away, across state and even national borders, where they have no support network and often don’t even speak the local language.” Not everyone is equally vulnerable to sex trafficking. Poverty and illiteracy both increase one’s vulnerability to traffic, as over 70% of victims are illiterate and 50% have a daily family income of less than 1 USD.
In the brothel we visited in Navi Mumbai’s red-light district, many of the women were from the poorest regions of India (Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal) and from poorer neighbouring countries: Nepal and Bangladesh.
Poverty and illiteracy are also the two prime factors leading women to voluntarily become sex workers. A survey by Sarvojana Coalition revealed that “68 per cent of women sex workers in India entered the profession ‘voluntarily’, due to factors such as lack of education and poverty”.