Prostitution By Tradition

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Article originally published on India Unheard on September 30, 2010

Gunjan Singh is a correspondent for IndiaUnheard, a program of the media advocacy non-profit group Video Volunteers. The organization trains community journalists in areas of India often unreached or ignored by the mainstream media, highlighting the right to be listened to as one of the most basic tools that enable success.

Singh is also a native of Uttar Pradesh, an Indian state that experiences high levels of trafficking for both labor and sex.  Here’s Singh’s recent report about the village of Natpura, where local tradition encourages men to sell sisters and daughters into prostitution.  Read Video Volunteers’ summary below.

http://blip.tv/indiaunheard/prostitution-enforced-by-tradition-4203941

Generations of women are forced into prostitution by their male relatives in the name of tradition in rural Uttar Pradesh, India.

Gunjan, our correspondent from Uttar Pradesh brings us this shocking video about Natpura, a village near state capital Lucknow, where for generations, men have been forcing their daughters and sisters into flesh trade.

The girls here are made to start serving clients when they are barely 11 or 12. Since they start working at such an early age, none of them goes to school. No woman here gets married either as nobody wants to marry a girl form this village.

The most shocking fact is that almost every woman here believes that she is just carrying on a ‘village tradition’. This thought instilled in them by their family members and other male relatives in the childhood. So few girls protest or even realize that they are being exploited or their rights are violated.

Natpura, which comes under Hardoi district, has about 50 families. In every family, all the young women work as prostitutes and are the main bread earners. But when they are old and have retired from the profession, they live in extreme poverty, abandoned by their relatives.

However, men of the village here live the way they want. They marry and bring home their brides, whom they protect well, keeping them away from prostitution. But when the same couples have female children, they bring them up only to make them prostitutes.

Gunjan who first visited this village 4 years ago, says that things have changed a lot in past 4 years, but only for worse. Now girls are trafficked to work in brothels in places like Mumbai and Dubai. This is one reason why Gunjan couldn’t find girls of her age to speak with, because they were all working abroad.

Those who are still based in the village, have a clientele that includes several politically and economically powerful people. Since they pay well for the women’s services, men in the village are not willing to take the women out of the profession. The village has no schools, no electricity and no panchayat/village council of it’s own – facts that makes the village a perfect breeding ground of any social crime.

Gunjan says when she visited Natpura, it felt as though the village was not a part of the country she lived in. This is because the talk of empowering women and ensuring their rights, etc. seemed to be alien subjects as women here had just one reality: Selling their bodies. And this is the reason why she felt compelled to share this story with the world, so it wakes up, takes notice and helps stop this utter injustice to women that has gone on here for long.

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Gunjan Singh is from Varanasi. When she decided to move to Lucknow her family didn’t want her to go because she is a girl. Today she knows she was right and has become self-reliant.  Click here To watch more of Gunjan’s videos and know more about her.