I participated in a rally organized by Durbar for sex workers children rights. This rally started from Durbar’s office at Sonagachi, the red light area. Seranna and I with the other crew members arrived at Durbar’s office at 6.30 evening time. This rally was supposed to start at 7.00. We were so excited. I saw hundreds of policemen wandering around the office. First of all I thought something bad had happened but in fact they were there to protect us. There were about 3000 people already present there, with most of them being children of sex workers. All of them were lined up and carrying some banners.�
There were a lot of hijras and transgenders also. There was a group of children of sex workers who were going to lead the rally with music and dance. I really liked this idea of having some music and dance also. The rally started around 7 o’clock and I think there were about 5000 people present by then. It was a huge rally. The rally started from Durbar’s office and passed through narrow alleys of Sonagachi, which is the biggest red light area of India. Seranna and I were in front cheering up with the children of sex workers.
Right after two-three minutes we arrived in the middle of the red light area.�I saw that there were sex workers everywhere- on the road, on the roof of the brothels, looking out of their windows… all of them were dressed very well but I could easily see that they were not happy and healthy. None of the sex workers wanted people to take their pics. They would turn their face away right after seeing the camera. I did not like it. It clearly means that they are too intimidated publicise their identities and it is only and only because of the way they are separated from the society. It was not something I was expecting.�
I tried to look inside some of the brothels as well. I just could not believe what I saw there. The brothels were too dirty, just too much. There was not even any proper ventilation system for the houses. There were bottles of alcohol thrown everywhere. It was not something only about brothels, the whole neighborhood was terribly dirty. I saw many many people who looked like drug users and were physically and mentally sick. It was third world for me. I knew that Indian sex workers have a very bad life but I did not know that it was this bad. I had already seen some brothels in Varanasi and a few nearby districts but I never realized that our sex workers live in this terrible condition.
They are kept in the terrible conditions in the brothels, and have no ventilation, no proper food, no health care, can’t go out of the brothels and after all of this they can’t make good money. Sex work is extremely cheap in India. Some of the sex workers whom I had interviewed for the documentary had said that sometimes they charge Rs. 50 only per customer and they have to give half of it to the brothel owner. It was a terrible situation there. We distributed a lot of pamphlets to the sex workers which were about their and their children’s rights. I could not understand anything written on these pamphlets because everything was written in Bengali.
One thing that was very interesting to me was that a lot of children of sex workers were effeminate.� This whole group of the sex workers children who were doing cultural program and were leading the parade were either hijras or effeminate. Sometimes they would sing hijra songs as well. I have heard and few a sex workers and locals of Kolkata had told me that a lot of times the children of sex workers are also abused by the clients of their mother and I was wondering if this was the reason why they were so effeminate? I am not sure but it was not something I see often in my society- this huge number of hijras or effeminate people from one neighborhood.
A lot of locals of Kolkata told me that sometimes people go to brothels and contact the brothel owner and ask for a young kid and these cruel brothel owners bring the children of the sex workers who are sometimes only 6-7 years old. Usually it is not done in knowledge the mother of the child and even if they come to know about it, they just can’t do anything. Their children are forcibly made to have sex and this happens again and again- whenever there is a client asking for a young boy or girl. It was very sad to hear the way sex workers and their children are treated.�
A few people told me that since the kids of sex workers spend most of their time with their mother and do not get involved with any male and are abused often, it changes their lives and makes them effeminate. I do not know if this is true or not but it could be true also to some extent. Well, they were very nice with the dancing and music. Some of them were playing the drums also. After we had completed half of the way, a very famous hijra named Luxmi Narayan Tripathi joined us. She is very famous and represents hijras and transgenders of Asia.�
She was also full of energy and excited for the rally. She was jumping, clapping, dancing, shouting…it was so fun to see them. I loved being with them. I also danced with them, tried to repeat their Bengali songs which in fact I was not able to pronounce perfectly but I tried my best. I enjoyed most when they would sing Hindi song- hum honge kamyab (we will be successful). I also sang this song with them. It was really an amazing experience being with these little kids who were fighting for their rights. Finally we reached a big park where the parade was ended. Now different people were putting thoughts and addressing to the community people.�
A few sex workers, social activists and Laxmi addressed to the people present there. They promised to each other they will �keep fighting for their rights so long as they have even a drop of blood in their body. Now the rally was done and we had created a big traffic jam. I loved this rally, the kids of the sex workers and everything that happened in this rally. I am sure that I will go next year also to support them in their rally.