As the volunteers visited each house distributing awareness pamphlets, basic medical services and condoms, she stood there, unaware of what she had in her hand. She wanted to ask, but was afraid that people would judge her vocabulary and behave indifferently. So she went back into her little room filled with filth and sat down on the floor, wondering what it could be. It had been a while since she had customers and she found it gruelling to cope with her health condition. The world celebrated Mother’s day and she laughed to herself in misery and despondency, discouraged to continue living. She knew that it was supposed to be used for safe sex but she was misinformed, just like the others in her building. It was not easy to be a single parent while she is challenged to making ends meet. Gauri was the family to her 9-month-old baby, with dreams and aspirations of becoming a social worker and a rescuer to women like her. Although she was dejected and melancholic in frustration, she was bright eyed and dreamy. No sooner than, when awareness including AIDS awareness, medical supplies for Tuberculosis treatment and safe sex measures; and social drives come to her neighbourhood every week, she’d be waiting to see how the affluent and well- to-do would take pictures while their so-called ‘charity’ and leave with insensitivity and a forged smile on their faces.
Ever since she was kidnapped, sold and trafficked by her uncle, she has always wanted a way out or for someone to rescue her. When she finally got married to her lover in Kolkata, she assumed it was her way out of her hell-hole when she was sold in Bombay again, by the same man, perhaps who promised her a life of euphoria and blissfulness. Little did she know that misery and heartbreak didn’t leave her path, but that didn’t stop Gauri from never giving up. When she got tired of asking herself ‘Why Me?’ she decided to live for her daughter rather than giving up her life as a quitter. Regardless of the nasty and unpleasant treatment by the brothel manager, Gauri tried harder to get customers.
The buildings in Bombay are five and six floors high with powerless, weary women staring down at people who pass by. The customers of these women are far more demoralised too. However, with the increase in poverty for the people, customers are mainly labourers or quarry workers, who are from the lower classes of the society. So, this unstoppable cycle of chaos never ends. The two theatres in Bombay near these localities are also used for sexual activities, due to which the government never got a chance to really develop or rebuild these places. However, the red light areas in Bombay are as far gone as the mafia neighbourhood. The concern about social awareness drives to these sensitive areas is that there are several issues of misinformation while the missing information is filled in. Several women like Gauri who have no way out of this mess, trying and understanding the basic use of a condom in safe sexual activity. Since most sex workers have been misinformed that the use of one condom is however enough for safe sex, they utilise more than one during sexual intercourse which eventually ends up causing infection and other diseases. Bombay and every other city in the country that have red-light areas also have NGOs that work towards these issues, and yet the practice still prevails.
There are millions of Gauri’s in the country today who are single parents at such ridiculously young ages and no social acceptance because of their forced profession. Gauri explained that “My baby stays under the bed while I am working on the bed”. “Sometimes my customers agree to pay me more if they remove the condom and since I struggle every day to make ends meet, I let them.” Sex workers go through abuse and rape every single day and the millions of Gauri’s in the country claim to save marriages and rapes, but they are ostracised and marginalised even as humans in the society. What is the way forward according to you? Let’s get this conversation started!