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Prostitution as Tradition

There are communities in India that have a tradition of sending their young women to work as prostitutes. They are sold into the sex trade after they reach puberty and return years later once their families have sufficiently profited from the girls' earnings. Here are three stories of women who have been subject to this cruel tradition.

Vimala's* story

Vimala and her six siblings belong to a poor family. Her father is a farmer and her mother is a housewife. Along with most of the girls in her community, Vimala was sold into prostitution as a matter of tradition. Her sisters were also commercial sex workers before they were allowed to get married.

Vimala was sold by her family to an agent after she reached puberty. She worked as a prostitute for 6 years. During that period, her parents would come and visit her twice a year to collect her earnings.

Today, Vimala is in the Karuna-shelter home in Nagpur. She understands that her health and well-being need attention and care because of what she has been through. One day, she hopes to marry and settle down.

After her release from Karuna home, Vimala intends to visit her village for a few days. She wants to see her mother and make her understand the life-threatening risks of the sex trade.


Following the customs of their village, Babita's brother sold her to a trafficker who brought her to Nagpur. Her brother visited her twice a year to collect money.

She was rescued from the same brothel twice and now resides in the Child Welfare Committee's short-stay home. She faces many challenges as a result of her abuse. Babita isolates herself from others and is unwilling to mingle with her peers. But she enjoys taking care of children and works well in the kitchen. For the most part, Babita is hard-hearted and holds grudges against many people. The counselor who has been working with Babita sees no improvements yet. She remains unsure of her future and unwilling to change her detached and uncompromising attitude. The counselor is continuing to work with Babita and hopes to find avenues towards healing with more time.


Monika is a member of Khanjar community of Rajasthan. Because they are a mostly landless people, they have little income. The Khanjar community has adopted a tradition of forcing their daughters to earn a livelihood from sex work.

Monika is the eldest of five siblings. About 5 years ago, her parents, hoping to purchase some agricultural land, sold her for Rs. 180,000.

Monika was rescued and now lives at Karuna home. At first, Monika was a rough person and could become violent if she felt threatened. The counselor who has been meeting with Monika reports signs of improvement. She has calmed down and is learning how to make jewelry and how to write her name. She has dreams of getting married and living a normal life.


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