An estimated 100,000 sex workers currently earn a living working in the brothels of South Mumbai’s red-light districts. Most of them are not there voluntarily, but rather, have been sold into sex work, sometimes by a relative or trusted family friend. Some are born into it. Life within the red-light districts isn't easy. In fact, it's pretty much like living in a giant toilet bowl full of syringes and awful people. These women live on the fringes of a society defined by the unrelenting harshness of its edges. They are frowned upon and ignored.
I began my photo essay on a group of sex workers based in the red-light districts of Kamathipura, Falkland Road, and Worli. The prostitutes work with Social Activities Integration (SAI), a small NGO modeled on the Didi ("Sister") Project. These women take what they learn about HIV, STDs, and women's rights back to their communities and teach others about the importance of condoms and HIV testing, giving them a sense of purpose and self-respect—in addition to helping them reduce the risk of sexual disease.
After getting to know some of the women, I felt the need to make my project more personal, in order to tell their stories. Obviously, each of them was a sister, a mother, or a daughter, not just a sex worker. I looked to create images of intimacy, femininity, and tenderness that would contrast with the often brutal reality of their lives. I wanted the viewer to gain insight into the lives of these women. This set of photographs is a selection focusing on violence against these women, taken from my project ,The Sisters of Kamathipura.
Via Gracie Passette