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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 second 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 Andhra Pradesh 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.[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 Andhra Pradesh 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 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 Andhra Pradesh 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 here come from the border areas of Karnataka where the Devdasi tradition acts as a catalyst, from the North, Nepal or West Bengal.[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 15,000 were Muslims, 6,500 Telugus; the rest are Marathi, South Indians and East Indians.[9]

NGOs in Kamatipura[edit]

A lot of literature is available about the socio-economic political aspects of prostitution. However, very little information is available on the government and non-governmental efforts to help this section of the population lead a dignified life.

An in-depth study of the red-light area and the pattern of functioning reflect the dehumanizing situation that the commercially sexually exploited women face every day. They are pushed into the trade at a young age, at times even before they attain puberty. They are, thus, not aware of the trap they are falling into. Once in the trade, there is no escape till the brothel keeper has earned well enough through them. Here they are subjected to physical and mental torture if they refuse to abide by the wishes of the keeper. As most women have no formal education, they have no knowledge of how much they earn. When they are allowed to leave the set-up, they are most probably a victim of life-threatening diseases like AIDS, without any place to go. In all probability, they will continue in the area and start soliciting and earning. Once trapped in the trade, women get pulled into a vicious circle from which escape is difficult. They get succor through the contacts with organizations working in the area. They form the bridge for them to develop linkage with the outside world, which also form the support system to the women, should they choose to move out of the trade.

Many organizations work in Kamatipura, dealing with aspects like rescue of minors, health awareness and treatment with special focus on AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, providing counseling services, de-addiction programs, skill development and training, etc. Some organizations help in taking care of the children of the workers by providing full-time care, protection and education through the day/night care shelters or residential homes away from the red-light area.

Government organizations like MDACS (Mumbai District AIDS Control Society)[who?] have played a very prominent role in generating awareness on HIV/AIDS through the assistance provided in providing free literature and organizing street campaigns.

There are many organizations working in Kamatipura: International Justice Mission, Navjeevan Centre an undertaking of Marthoma Church, CCDT, Prerna, Oasis India, Jyoti Kalash, SAI, Bombay Teen Challenge, Stop Sex Slavery, Salvation Army, Apne Aap, etc. Each organisation has independent specific goals which could be health, education or overall rehabilitation of the workers and/or their children.

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.[12]

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 c "Beedi workers look for saviour". DNA (newspaper). Jan 25, 2007. 
  10. ^ "Prostitution beckons India's former bar girls". San Francisco Chronicle. March 26, 2006. 
  11. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/dancing-in-the-dark/article4932416.ece
  12. ^ 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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51 news items

Livemint

Livemint
Thu, 20 Mar 2014 07:57:09 -0700

When Mumbai photographer Sudharak Olwe first went to Mumbai's oldest red-light district, Kamathipura, in 1990 on an assignment for a daily newspaper, the scene seemed to be straight out of a Bollywood film, with flashy lights, narrow lanes, women ...

Indian Express

Indian Express
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:53:45 -0700

Sex workers in Mumbai's oldest red light area, Kamathipura, are upbeat about casting their votes in the upcoming general election on April 24. While some of these women, who say voting would “definitely” bring about a social change, have received their ...

Mirror.co.uk

Mirror.co.uk
Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:09:09 -0700

Somewhere in there is a girl whose stolen innocence is a sordid selling point in the rat-infested red-light district of Kamathipura district. In this labyrinth of rubbish-strewn lanes, where homeless tots sleep rough beside wild-eyed junkies, there are ...

Calcutta Telegraph

Calcutta Telegraph
Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:07:30 -0700

Some gamblers in Shuklaji Street — an alley off Kamathipura infamous for its illegal betting and gambling dens — told the police that Qasim played a couple of hands, lost Rs 900 and left. At 8.30pm, the police got information that Qasim was in Mumbai ...
 
Indian Express
Fri, 11 Apr 2014 02:11:15 -0700

Ten girls, whose education is funded by a non-governmental organisation, are on the verge of losing their rented apartment in a Mumbai suburb just because they are daughters of sex workers from the city's red light area, Kamathipura. Residents of ...

India Today

India Today
Tue, 25 Mar 2014 03:54:38 -0700

Laughing at the experience, the film's co-producer Elahi Heptoolah said, "It was a screening only for the sex workers of Kamathipura (Mumbai's red-light district). The atmosphere was charged and emotional. The ladies completely empathized with what was ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 04:35:18 -0700

Indirect contacts from bar girls also brought me to GP Road in Delhi, and direct contacts brought me to Congress House and Kamathipura, where I watched two mujra performances. I also visited Kolhati performers in Pune and villages in Maharashtra.
 
Times of India
Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:55:24 -0700

It includes India's rich and famous and the city's red-light district of Kamathipura. The meeting is also aimed at increasing voter awareness. Does Modi's family campaign for him? Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said the Adarsh scam ...
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