In the run up to the Commonwealth Games next year, it is not just Delhi’s roads and flyovers that are getting a makeover. GB Road, the capital’s red light district, is also sprucing up its act in anticipation of big business from tourists. And the recent observation by the Supreme Court,asking the Government to explore the possibility of legalising prostitution in India, has only pepped up the mood.
HT spoke to sex workers in GB Road about the area’s likely revamp into something like De Wallen, Amsterdam’s touristy red light district famous for its glass-door cabins, sex stores, theatres, museums and peep shows.
Most women, while saying a big “thank you” to the court for thinking about them, said legalization is only a remote possibility. But, they say, it would change their lives. “We are grateful to the judges,” says Nasreen, a sex worker. “If we get licenses, then we’ll have ration cards,” says sex worker Babita and adds, “and we can also save ourselves from being exploited by kotha owners, pimps, money-lenders, and women traffickers.”
In anticipation of good business at the time of the Commonwealth Games, the women have started taking grooming lessons. In one kotha, an instructor comes daily to teach English. “These lessons help us in talking more politely to foreigners,” says Vimla, a sex worker. Another woman in the same kotha promptly points out that even the kind of magazines they keep for ‘guests’ have undergone a shift. Flipping through an old issue of India Today in her cabin, she says “The Indians like to flip though film magazines, but our foreign clients ask for serious matter.”