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The Prostituted Woman: A Book Discussion


Baran Farooqi


A report on a book discussion held at the India International Centre on May 24, 2016, with Indu Agnihotri, CWDS, in the chair and Vidhu Varma (JNU), Kusha Tiwari (Shyam Lal College) and Baran Faoorqi (JMI) in the panel.   Prostitution is about the only job in the world in which you earn the most on your first day. As the days pass, your income declines before you finally burn out within 10–15, or if you are lucky, twenty years. Prostitution consumes your body, destroying it with the abuse, insecurity and poverty that often comes with it. The bouquet of three books under discussion approaches the subject of prostitution from multiple angles. A statement that emerges with tremendous force from these three books could be, ‘Prostitution is a choice where there is no choice.’ Apne Aap Women Worlwide, an organization which works against sex trafficking and endeavours to rescue women from the exploitative institution of prostitution, has Ruchira Gupta as its founder president. Ruchira is a writer, feminist campaigner, and Professor in New York University. She has edited The River of Flesh and Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction (2014). She has also edited and introduced the Gloria Steinem Reader As If Women Matter. The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader (2014). The third book, Prem Nagar:Town of Love (2013), is by Ann Ch. Ostby. Prem Nagar is a novel about the Nat women of Forbesganj, Bihar. This is a community in which women are automatically turned into prostitutes to earn a living for the rest of the family as soon as they become (barely) old enough to sustain intercourse. It highlights the predicament, the misery inherent in the act of being a prostitute and also tries to show a way out of the trap of this abusive business of the body through education and social awareness and tact. Though the book is about a certain community, it serves to illustrate very well the argument put forth in the other two books as well. Heena didn’t bring very much with her when she arrived at Tamanna’s door—a mattress, a blanket so threadbare it was nearly transparent, a tiny metal box containing a comb and a few medications, a packet of tea, a set of extra clothes. These were the wages of thirty long years of service under her brother’s roof, of thousands of men lying in the same bed, year after ...


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