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Enforcing Prostitution - In The Name Of 'Tradition'!

Generations of women are forced into prostitution by their male relatives in the name of tradition in rural Uttar Pradesh, India

In my country, lot is happening to make women empowerment real. 33% of the seats in the parliament is reserved for the women. In rural India, village council must have 50% women members. The country has, for the first time in history, a woman president. In Uttar Pradesh – the country’s most politically powerful state, there is a Dalit(‘lower’caste) woman chief minister. But in the same state of UP men in a village have been, for generations, forcing their daughters and sisters into prostitution saying it’s their ‘tradition’.

Gunjan, a community correspondent of Video Volunteers’ IndiaUnheard program has just filed a shocking video about Natpura, a village near Lucknow – the capital city of Uttar Pradesh state, where for generations, men have been forcing their daughters and sisters into flesh trade.

The girls in the village are made to start serving clients when they are barely 11 or 12. Because they start so early, no girl here goes to school. No woman here gets married either. The reason is, no man from other villages wants to marry a girl from Natpura.

The most shocking fact is that almost every woman here believes that she is just carrying on a ‘village tradition’, though they don’t know what exactly makes this a ‘tradition’. This thought instilled in them by their family members and other male relatives in the childhood. So few girls protest or even realize that they are being exploited or their rights are violated.

Natpura, which comes under Hardoi district, has about 50 families. In every family, all the young women work as prostitutes and are the main bread earners. But when they are old and have retired from the profession, they live in extreme poverty and loneliness, abandoned by their relatives.

However, the male members of their families are free to live whichever way they want. So men here marry and bring home their brides, whom they protect well, keeping them away from prostitution. But when the same couples have female children, they bring them up only to later initiate them into prostitution.

Gunjan, the young correspondent who is from Uttar Pradesh, says that when she visited Natpura 4 years ago, she was totally unaware of the village’s dark truth. It was like any other Indian village with bad roads and homes with broken walls where barefoot children played around while men gathered in front of a tea shop, sipping tea, smoking and laughing. However, she had been surprised to see a number of women sitting in front of their house, as though waiting for someone.

It was only later she came to know that the women, who should have been ideally busy working in the field or kitchen, were waiting for their clients to arrive.

In past four years, however, things have changed a lot, but only for worse. Now girls are trafficked to work in brothels in cities like Mumbai and Dubai. These girls are also as young as 13/14 and don’t even know the meaning of prostitution when they are packed off to a brothel. In fact when Gunjan tried finding someone of her age to speak with, she couldn’t. Because, she was told, all the girls had gone abroad to ‘work’.

Today it’s mostly women who are thirty or more stay in the village. Their clientele includes several politically and economically powerful people. Most of who live in Lucknow – the state capital. Since these men pay well for the women’s services, men in the village are not willing to let the women leave or retire early from the profession.

The village has no schools, no electricity and no panchayat/village council of its own - facts that makes the village a perfect breeding ground of any social crime.

Gunjan says when she visited Natpura, she felt that this was not a part of the country she lived in. This is because all the talk of empowering women, ensuring their rights fall by wayside when one enters the village. This was the same reaction at IndiaUnheard office once Gunjan sent her footage for editing. Everyone sat around the editing table, listening to the interviews, with shock visibly written on their face.

Gunjan says, once she visited the village, she felt ‘compelled by conscience’ to share this story with the world, so it wakes up, takes notice and helps stop this utter injustice to women that has gone on here for long.

If you have read this far, it means, the wall of the isolation has already started breaking.

You can see the moving video and hear the victims speaking of their lives here -


Iffat Gill's picture

That's shocking!

This story is shocking and thanks for sharing it with us. In a culture, where there are incidences of honour killings and a woman is considered a 'kulta/weshia' (prostitute) if she even accidentally ends up in a brothel, and the family won't accept her back in the house, this place seem extremely cut off and it seems pre-planned. How did they manage to keep these women so secluded? I guess any sort of protest or resistance would have gone hidden just like the whole story.
Is there any update on how they are planning to bring change to this community? It has been too long a suffering for the women in the area.


Iffat Gill

Stella Paul's picture


Dear Rose

Thanks a lot for reading and caring to comment. The protests, if any, as you assumed right, have high chances of going unheard, as the village itself remained invisible to the world until now.

However, a local NGO called Asha has taken the first step to intervene by approaching a couple of women form the village who are no longer in the trade (retired and therefore abandoned by the family). The women, in turn are going to make young ones aware of the real hardship of a prostitute's life.

It's a very very small step. But like we all say, it's still a beginning and when there's been a beginning, there will be an end.



Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

olutosin's picture

And Again it continues

The story continues.....though infuriating...I witnessed it so I quite understand what you are talking about.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Stella Paul's picture


Like I said, the most important thing is, not taking it silently. And since we are speaking out, I would say, there will be an end, someday.



Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Rita Banerji's picture


Hi Stella,

i was looking through your posts with interest. We share a common focus :) women and environment. I run a campaign called the 50 Million Missing (fighting female genocide in India).

I was wondering is this community in same way related to the Bedia's ?

Rita Banerji

Stella Paul's picture

No, Nat

Hi Rita

I have been asked the same question before as the Bedias of Rajasthan also have a similar 'tradition'. The women here are however belong to a Dalit community called Nat. Thanks for sharing your website id. I would love to follow your work. Until then, all the best and thanks for your comments


Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Zin Zar's picture


I am sorry for reading this article .That tradition is not worthy of those young girls .I've heard about that the girls from India have to marry since they are young .They didn't know the freedom of young life.I pray to loose that awful situation .

God bless them!
Zin Zar

Stella Paul's picture

Yes,but there is now hope

Dear Zin Zar

From 2010 an NGO called Asha has started giving support to women to break free of this so called tradition. It happened after our report came out in the media. Now, at least 4 women have formed a group and they are trying to talk to parents and make them give their children a normal life.

In future, we may see big changes


Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Y's picture

Hello, Stella.You may want

Hello, Stella.
You may want to introduce yourself to a dear WP sister of mine and of Olutosin in Nigeria. Urmila Chanam works for the rights of sex workers.

From New Orleans, Louisiana, USA


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