Inside Asia’s largest red light district with hundreds of multi-storey brothels home to prostitutes – from 72-year-old women who can’t bring themselves to leave, to wives fleeing violent husbands
- Roughly 14,000 prostitutes from all over India work in the red light district Sonagachi, in the western city of Kolkata
- Many of the women have been trafficked in, and are forced to work as slaves – but others choose the profession
- Kolkata in West Bengal is nicknamed the City of Joy for its beauty, but life in Sonagachi is anything but joyful
The pictures of women applying their make-up, waiting in their rooms and playing with their children offer a rare glimpse into the lives of the sex workers who ply their trade in Asia’s largest red light district.
They are the residents of Sonagachi, in the western city of Kolkata, an area swamped with hundreds of multi-storey brothels, housing roughly 14,000 prostitutes from all over India.
It is thought as many as 1,000 women arrive every year to work in the brothels, and each of them have their own tale of how they came to live in the sprawling red light district.
Many are not there out of choice, trafficked into the profession and forced to sleep through the day and work tirelessly through the night.
But other women have made a conscious decision to join the trade, the promise of more money being too good to turn down.
While checking the playlist on her newly bought smartphone, a Sonagachi sex worker named Baishaki said: ‘I used to work as a domestic help where I earned about £15 per month, whereas now I am earning £170 to £180.
‘I have come across people who have taken this profession up as a family tradition.’
Kolkata in West Bengal is nicknamed the City of Joy and is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in India.
But the sprawling streets and nocturnal life of Sonagachi appear to buck the trend.
At weekends the red light district buzzes with customers of all ages from a range of different professions.
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