(The infamous brothels of Kamathipura are living out its last days. Even as this shift is largely attributed to imminent redevelopment brought out by the construction boom, many activists and organizations have dedicated entire lives in getting these hellholes to shut.
Recently Mr. Jason Burke India correspondent of The Guardian published a story on it. Click here for the link.)
We were glad we had the opportunity to facilitate Guardian UK’s India Correspondent Jason Burke’s visits, meetings, consultations, and discussions on the fast changing real estate scenario in Kamathipura and Falkland Road. the prime red light districts of Mumbai . When we started our intervention in 1986, we had hoped that some day gangrenous wounds like these areas would disappear from the face of the earth. Perhaps in our own life time. Of course, the real estate market is playing a key role in the current physical transformation described in Burke’s article. We don’t claim to be the prime mover in this specific process but we have worked tirelessly to ensure that the children choose their lives. That mothers walk out of the hell on their own before the hell is destroyed. And that when their wounds heal, no scars are left behind.
No single actor or factor can bring about any major social transformation. Several factors operate simultaneously on every phenomenon. As social interventionists, we are judged by our ability to evolve and use appropriate strategies to get the most desired outcome from the interaction among the many forces of change affecting a situation. It is important for social workers have to carefully choose their stance and moves in order to get the result they seek.
A decade ago when the red light area of Goa at Baina beach was razed by the state government, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman (then a member of National Commission for Women -NCW and currently the Union Minister – Commerce and Industry Govt of India)and I were sent by the National Commission for Women as Observers to study the situation and report back. If I remember well, a previous Committee headed by a retired high court judge Justice Kamath had recommended that the red light area should be reconstructed by the government at a suitable nearby location. Many local civil society organizations supported the recommendation and demanded action on it. A few of them even submitted a list of the brothel keepers and pimps and demanded their rehabilitation in the same trade on priority basis. Truly unfortunate demands! I remember we had two meetings with Mr. Mohan Parrikar, (then Chief Minister, Goa and currently the Defence Minister of India) where he expressed dismay over such demands.
In Kamathipura, on the contrary, we strongly believed that every effort must be made to make the traffic-based sex trade non-feasible. We tried to erode the very foundation of this exploitative market by cutting the supply- by ending inter-generational trafficking and by giving to the local children the mantra of a dignified life. We trained and pressurized the police, facilitated incessant raids and rescues and evolved the art of the post rescue operation in order to get the freshly trafficked victims, minors and young women out for good. We provided to them alternative livelihoods. The trade was thus made nonviable. We are glad we played our modest but decisive role in the fight against the modern day slavery of sex trade.
The lives of a couple of tens of thousands of women and their children were decisively and positively transformed through the last three decades of our work – several thousand children were protected and acquired alternative dignified lives, thousands of minor girls and women walked out of the cages never to get re-trafficked.
Let the last brick of this highly infamous and criminal slave camp be razed to the ground. Let a memorial be built in its place which will inspire future generations to declare a non-negotiable position against slavery.
Let all such ugly hell holes disappear from the face of the earth… in our own life time.
Let all human beings enjoy the freedom to choose a life of dignity.
Let the world become a peaceful and fair place!
Lokaha Samastaha Sukhino Bhavantu!
- Dr. Pravin Patkar
Adjunct Professor – Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
(I thank Ms. Priti Patkar for providing overall assistance and our staff Ms. Mugdha Dandekar for taking Jason around in the red light area. I thank both of them for arranging for his interaction with the prostituted women in the community and at our center.)