Marie Claire | How open mic nights and feminist films are helping fight intergenerational prostitution in India


A group of young girls huddle around a projector screen in a small community centre in Kolkata, India. A few hundred metres away, over a thousand women sell themselves for as little as 200 rupees (£2.50) to a man at least ten times a day in Munshiganj, one of the city’s many red-light districts.

Across India, massive rural-urban migration, sexually deprived young men, and high rates of female infanticide have resulted in an insatiable demand for young sex workers and forced marriages.

The girls and women in the centre are victims or prime targets of the sex industry. Many of the girls’ mothers are local sex workers trapped by debts and poverty. The girls, aged 9 to 16, have been taught they’re worth less than men their entire lives and they’re at high risk of being forced into prostitution by human traffickers, pimps or even their own families.

But social workers are teaching them a simple thing – they can fight back.

The girls are being taught about gender oppression and global feminist movements. The film Dangal is a feminist Bollywood film about a wrestler who trains his two daughters to fight men in local competitions. When the wrestler’s daughters initially line up to fight with the village’s men they’re not taken seriously and the men smirk. But the girl’s quickly shatter any notion that women are worth less than men.

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