On the Streets of Meerganj | Prayagraj’s Red Light Area.

In an interview with two prominent NGO’s – Freedom Firm, Allahabad and the Guria Foundation, Varanasi that work to rescue women from brothels, both admitted to having been successful in shutting down the area. Though skeptic of this, I decided to visit that area recently on the lead of a friend who had earlier visited thearea and found prostitutes soliciting and waiting for business.

Prayagraj’s Meerganj area is of considerable size on the map. It comprises of small ‘Gullies’ that let no more than two people pass at a time. They are lined with small shops on both sides. One thing anyone visiting such areas needs to understand is that since the high court ruled to shut down the brothels, the work of prostitution has been going on in the dark. Even the unsuspicious looking people might be hawks of the pimp. The reason I state that the work has been going on even after the shutdown, is because my sources confirm it.

Now, the question is, why do women who have been given the ‘escape route’ by the government (shutting down of the brothels) still indulge in Prostitution. To understand this it needs to be very clear that prostitution is a multi-faceted problem. You may think you have cut down the roots, where in reality you must have only reached the stem of the issue. You see people who have not witnessed such issues first hand, having no understanding about it. People who have witnessed it from an Activist point of view or from an NGO front also fall short of understanding the profoundness of the problem. Because well, they have not been victimized by it.

The only people eligible to have a say are the prostitutes, who have spent the better part of their life in this hell. Seeing the current scenario, they too in some ways have fallen short to address this problem adequately and successfully.

Our interview with Freedom Firm also brought out the point that there is hardly any female who would indulge in this business willfully. Most of them are either sold or trafficked into brothels. These women are trafficked at the age of six or nine. So for most of the present women working as prostitutes, this is the only thing they know. They don’t know anything else. They are never given the chance to be equipped with the knowledge that they can use their mind instead of their body to sustain themselves in this world. And if you take that job away from them then you fire them from their only source of income. It is natural for them to work in hiding and stay alive rather than go outside trying to start a new life, all the while being judged by society.

Many girls are trafficked from far off places or even different countries. They don’t even remember their home or in some cases their family members. They are held under strict survelliance and held without their choice. The initial days are the hardest for these girls where they are brutally traumatized and beaten to break their resilience to leave. These girls live the life of slaves and have no say whatsoever. Such people are also held in places such as Meerganj and find it hard to escape.

When girls are being held as hostages, I wonder, doesn’t it become harder for the rescuers to reach them? Since the go-to places to look for them have been shut down and everything is happening in hiding.

The trauma these girls face is so much that they deny being rescued and report lies when interviewed by the NGO’s. It is a matter of complete hopelessness. Many NGO’s have undertaken the charge of their rehabilitation, to facilitate their recovery and to bring them back to “Life”. The efforts have been successful in most cases.

Knowing that prostitution has been the oldest profession in the history of mankind, do you think that it is possible to shut it down? Can a law be passed that suddenly changes the scenario and facilitates the prostitutes towards an ‘easy’ rehabilitation? It is possible that a law could curb the intake or trafficking of girls overnight?

The current law “The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act” falls short on many ends and needs to be amended. But an important question is, can a law be passed (ever) that stops this evil trade of flesh? Is it in the capacity of a law?