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Kamathipura
neighbourhood
A lane in Kamathipura
A lane in Kamathipura
Kamathipura is located in Mumbai
Kamathipura
Kamathipura
Location in Mumbai, India
Coordinates: 18°58′N 72°49′E / 18.96°N 72.82°E / 18.96; 72.82Coordinates: 18°58′N 72°49′E / 18.96°N 72.82°E / 18.96; 72.82
Country  India
State Maharashtra
Metro Mumbai
Elevation 4 m (13 ft)
Languages
 • Official Marathi
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

Kamathipura (also spelled Kamthipura) (Marathi: कामाठीपुरा) is Mumbai's oldest and Asia's largest red-light district.[1] It was first settled after 1795 with the construction of causeways that connected the erstwhile seven islands of Bombay. Initially known as Lal Bazaar, it got its name from the Kamathis (workers) of Telangana state, who were labourers on construction sites. Due to tough police crackdown, in the late 1990s with the rise of AIDS and government's redevelopment policy that helped sex workers to move out of the profession and subsequently out of Kamathipura, the number of sex workers in the area has dwindled. In 1992, Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded there were 50,000 sex workers here which was reduced to 1,600 in 2009, with many sex worker migrating to other areas in Maharashtra and real estate developer taking over the high-priced real estate. O[1]

History[edit]

Former seven islands of Bombay, before the 17th century

The ground floors open directly onto the road like native shops. In their lower and upper rooms, native women call to male passers-by.

- A visiting British missionary in late 19th century [2]
Kamathipura area in map of Bombay, 1924

After the completion of the Hornby Vellard project in 1784, which built a causeway uniting all seven islands of Bombay under William Hornby, governor of Bombay (1771-1784), plugged the Great Breach in Mahalaxmi, while the subsequent Bellasis Road causeway joined Mazagaon and Malabar Hill in 1793. This resulted in several low-lying marshy areas of Mumbai Flats like Byculla, Tardeo, Mahalaxmi and Kamathipura opening up for habitation. Thereafter starting 1795, Kamathis (workers) of Telangana state, working as labourers on construction sites began settling here, giving the area its present name. It was bounded by Bellasis Road on the north, by Grant Road on the south and the main road across, Falkland Road.[2][3] At one point during this period it was home to a Chinese community, which worked as dockhands and ran restaurants. By the late 19th century it all changed.[1]

Till then, as previous 1864 Census figures for Bombay indicate, other areas had a larger population of prostitutes, like Girgaum (1,044), Phanaswadi (1,323) and Oomburkharee (1,583) compared with Kamathipura (601), all which declined after 1864.[4] This small region boasted the most exotic consorts. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a large number of women and girls from continental Europe and Japan were trafficked into Kamathipura, where they worked as prostitutes servicing British soldiers and local Indian men.[5][6] Gradually, social stratification also took place: A busy road in Kamathipura was known as Safed Gully (White Lane) owing to the European prostitutes housed here during the British Raj. The lane is now known as Cursetji Shuklaji Street. The most well-known brothel in the area, Pila House, is the hybridisation of its original word: Playhouse. The first venereal disease clinic of Bombay was opened in 1916, taken over by BMC in 1925. Nearby, Bachchuseth ki Wadi on Foras Road was famous for its kothewalis or tawaifs and mujras.[1]

When the British left India, the Indian sex workers took over. In recent decades, large numbers of Nepalese women and girls have also been trafficked into the district as sex workers.[7] Over the years under Indian government rule, the sex industry in Kamathipura continued to flourish, and trafficking brought women from different parts of the country here. Eventually it became Asia's largest sex district.[8]

Today, it is said that there are so many brothels in the area that there is no space for the sex workers to sit. They hang around in the streets, solicit customers, and then rent an available bed. The 3,000-odd buildings in the area are largely dilapidated and in urgent need of repairs; safe drinking water and sanitation is scarce as well.[9]

Linganna Puttal Pujari (1915–1999), who migrated to Mumbai from Nizamabad in Telangana in 1928 and was a prominent social worker and city and state legislator, was largely responsible for most of the civic amenities available to the residents of Kamathipura today.

Some historical sources point out[citation needed] that the origin of slums, subsequently the red-light areas of Mumbai including Kamathipura is related to land acquisition, from the indigenous locals who were evicted from their farmlands and cattle-fields and forced themselves to live in congested conditions, for the development of the industrial harbor city. At the early stages, people accumulated in the new slums partly depended on constructions contracts. Later, as men became unemployed due to lack of jobs, more women turned up selling themselves in the red-streets for livelihood. Now these streets are playgrounds for human traffickers and mafia in addition to the economic refugees who came during the past years. In the 1970s and early '80s Bachchu Wadi at Kamathipura was frequented by gangleaders from Mumbai underworld, such as Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, and Dawood Ibrahim.[1]

In 2005, with a state-wide ban on dance bars, many dancing girls, who couldn't find other means of income, moved to prostitution to survive, in Mumbai's red-light districts, like Kamathipura. According to police, in 2005, there were 100,000 prostitutes working out of five-star hotels and brothels across Mumbai.[10]

The area is home to a small cottage industry of about 200 women who make a living rolling beedis (hand-rolled Indian cigarette).[9]

Demographics[edit]

Kamathipura is divided into roughly 14 lanes and divided according to regional and linguistic backgrounds of the sex workers. Most of the sex workers come from other Indian states and Nepal.[11]There is little interaction between areas, which makes it harder for social organizations to organize them into a movement or union. Further, lack of public opinion, political leadership or social activism which is empathetic towards them means a tough time forming unions.[8]

The area had 55,936 voters in 2007, out of which 6,500 Telugus; the rest are Marathi, South Indians and East Indians.[12]

Since 2005, the Sanghamitra collective, run by and for the sex workers of Kamatipura, has provided practical assistance to women in the sex trade as well as helping to rescue children and trafficked women from the brothels.[13]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Red light district swaps sin for skyscrapers". The Times of India. Nov 28, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Kamathipura". Mumbai Pages. 
  3. ^ "Bellasis Road". Mumbai Pages, TIFR. 
  4. ^ Tambe, p. 62
  5. ^ Fischer-Tiné, Harald (2003). "'White women degrading themselves to the lowest depths': European networks of prostitution and colonial anxieties in British India and Ceylon ca. 1880–1914". Indian Economic Social History Review 40 (2): 163–190 [175 & 181]. doi:10.1177/001946460304000202 
  6. ^ Tambe, Ashwini (2005). "The Elusive Ingénue: A Transnational Feminist Analysis of European Prostitution in Colonial Bombay". Gender & Society 19 (2): 160–79. doi:10.1177/0891243204272781 
  7. ^ Selling of Innocents _ Part I – Film by Ruchira Gupta on YouTube
  8. ^ a b Karandikar, p. 17
  9. ^ a b "Beedi workers look for saviour". DNA (newspaper). Jan 25, 2007. 
  10. ^ Watson, Paul (March 26, 2006). "Prostitution beckons India's former bar girls". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  11. ^ "Dancing in the dark". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 20 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Prerana's first Night Care Center". 
  13. ^ The Sanghamitra Sex Worker Collective: Challenging Stereotypes and Discrimination 

References[edit]

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamathipura — Please support Wikipedia.
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The Hindu

The Hindu
Tue, 10 Mar 2015 11:11:15 -0700

For children born to sex workers, shaking off the stigma is sometimes impossible. However, tales of grit and resilience too emerge from this gloomy scene. From the warrens of Kamathipura, one of Asia's largest red-light districts, 13 girls have not ...

Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times
Wed, 11 Mar 2015 10:06:20 -0700

In May, 12 girls from Kamathipura — one of India's largest red-light areas — will go to the United States to perform a play on the lives of sex workers. The girls, all daughters of sex workers and members of a non-governmental organisation Kranti ...

Times of India

Times of India
Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:33:45 -0800

When I met them at Kamathipura, I realised that they live in a society that makes it hard for them to get an education and equal opportunity because their lives are clouded with morality and conditioning. Hence I making a documentary would convey their ...
 
Times of India
Wed, 11 Mar 2015 14:38:52 -0700

MUMBAI: A 21-year-old man died and a 60-year-old sustained serious injuries after the floor slab of a house on the second floor of a four-storied building collapsed in Kamathipura on Wednesday morning. Local residents managed to pull the two out of the ...
 
Times of India
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:33:45 -0700

... of profit on locations where the ready reckoner rate is high, such as Dadar, Bandra and Andheri, and would get more share than the BMC if the market is located in a low-profile area, such as Dharavi and Kamathipura, where the ready reckoner rate is ...

Mid-Day

Mid-Day
Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:02:05 -0800

Gentrification and the lure of money is set to swallow up most of Kamathipura, dimming its red lights and bathing it in a more acceptable hue. While landlords claim it's a win-win situation, activists say sex workers, most of whom have already been ...

Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Monitor
Thu, 12 Mar 2015 15:52:30 -0700

It all started when Ms. Patkar visited Kamathipura, Mumbai's red-light district, to do research as a university student studying social work in 1986. What began as a simple survey turned into something much more as she began to learn about the living ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:52:28 -0800

The scene in Kamathipura, in the heart of Mumbai, India's commercial capital, appears timeless. Established in the late 18th century by the British, the neighbourhood has been a hub of sex work and trafficking ever since. Yet what is one of the oldest ...
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