Teenage prostitution is a huge problem in India, with some reports estimating that nearly 20% of under-aged children in the country are part of the commercial sexual exploitation network. There are certain Indian communities in which prostitution is their main industry and young girls enter into it by following in the footsteps of their older sisters, mothers and grandmothers. This notion of caste-based prostitution is very old in these groups and it creates what seems to be an inescapable reality for the female children born into it. The most famous of these clans – which also include Nat, Sansi, Kanjar, and Bachada – is the nomadic Bedia.
Here is a description of the Bendia gender roles from a very informative article written by Anuja Agrawal at indiatogether.org:
Women born into a Bedia family remain unmarried. They engage in prostitution in order to provide for the economic needs of their natal family. Bedia brothers, that is, the men, although not economically productive, do marry. The wives of the Bedia men do not engage in prostitution. But they are largely responsible for all the domestic work including cooking, washing, cleaning, and childcare…In sharp contrast, Bedia men do not engage in any kind of wage or even non-wage work for the major part of their lives…Bedia men sometimes participate in domestic chores. Under some conditions, the men may engage in some gainful activities such as agriculture, rickshaw pulling, or some other work involving manual labour. But they barely ever do so consistently and in no case are they primarily responsible for the sustenance of their family.
The families are fiscally motivated to get these girls on the market as soon as possible, a problem made worse by the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in India, which only increases the demand and value of younger, less-experienced girls. A girl’s virginity is the most valuable commodity the family possesses, usually auctioned off when the girl is 13 or 14 for anywhere from $165 to $825 depending on how “attractive” she is.
Here are some amazing photographs of some very young Bedia girls, some of which are already prostitutes with the rest nearly certain to do the same soon. First are photographs of Sanjana and her younger sister Simran (6). Sanjana’s age is unknown, though she claims to be 18. Simran is expected to enter the profession as soon as she reaches puberty.
(Click to zoom in)
(See PAGE TWO for more photos)