Caste-Based Shackles Making Prostitutes
Imagine a 13-year-old girl getting decked up for her ‘first night’. She knows tonight she will be auctioned, her virginity will be snatched away and from tomorrow her life as a prostitute begins. She is happy about it, her parents and tribe members are partying! So why does prostitution-based villages need to get a new lease of life before they fall prey to their own system?
Prostitution has been an age-old norm in India. The nazakat, nakras and dances of courtesans still entrances both men and women alike! But never in the past centuries did prostitution grow the way it has now.
There are about 3 million prostitutes in India of which 40% are children. The child prostitute population is pegged at about a whooping 1.2 million. At least 100 million people are involved in human trafficking in India and 90% of human trafficking is intra-country.
With such shocking statistics it is appalling that there are prostitution-based villages in India.
A few kilometers down the Agra-Jaipur highway comes India’s worst kept secret-a village of prostitutes. Bedia village has a tradition of turning its women to prostitution for livelihood.
This village set beside a dusty highway road is a cluster of shelters. About 59 families are members of the Bedia tribe that has a tradition of caste-based prostitution. Girls born here become prostitutes instead of getting married. What is shocking is that they choose their profession over getting married and having a family.
But their non-wedding first night, when their virginity is taken away, is celebrated like a wedding! Like a wedding there are proper arrangements, the entire tribe is invited, jewelry for gifting is brought, and abundant food and alcohol are served. Here, young girls (13 year-olds) are forced to earn their livelihood. Virginity is usually sold in an auction to the highest bidder. Bids can go up to Rs.40,000 if the virgin girl is ‘beautiful’.
These young girls often enter thinking about the money they would earn over household chores and martial drudgery. They don’t even realise that ‘entertaining’ some 15 to 20 men daily for a few hundred rupees is not going to solve their monetary issues. But Bedia has its regular clientele and it is not only the truck drivers. Many upper-middle class businessmen from Agra make a beeline for Bedia in the night. Infact, they are the first ones to bid for the virgins!
Unfortunately this is not the only village where women earn the livelihood by flesh trade. India has many such villages. These villages have time and again been in news for their outrageous acts, where fathers sell their daughters or husbands pimp their wives.
Recently a mass wedding was organized in one such village (Vadia). Here - couples between the ages of 12 and 16 got engaged and eight girls got married to volunteer grooms! Many hailed the move but the long-term approach to encroach prostitution by marriage is not the solution. Giving them better work opportunities is.
Women who enter by choice, need to be made aware about the politics being played with the in the name of caste and religion. Awareness to various sexual diseases and the short-term lure of money needs to be created.
Zee TV with the help of their show Phir Subha Hogi has brought the problems of Bedia village to limelight. There is still a lot to be done to change the mindset of the tribe members. Making them quit what they think of as an age-old tradition is difficult. But will this change really happen or will the shackles keep on tightening and more adolescent girls keep this tradition alive?
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