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Children in ‘Line Bari’

Sex work in various forms exists in all most every stratified society historically. It is a stigmatized profession and social rehabilitation of the sex workers or economic rehabilitation for eradication of them is a hard struggle.  The brothel based commercial female sex workers(CFSWs) operate their trade in a complex milieu. They set up their household considered by themselves as ‘line bari’ because they had to stand in the queue to solicit customers within their community.  In spite of their obstruction and stigma as sex workers, they welcome motherhood as a cultural practice. This ‘line bari’ is matrifocal and males’ role in their ‘line bari’ is parasitic/insignificant. They fail to provide required care and support to their family. Their environment hardly permits for proper care and attention to their off-springs. At their early stage of life, the children of CFSWs grow up under parent-centric process of development. But gradually it turns into the child-centric approach.

From a study of the children of CFSWs of Bowbazar red-light area, a century long red-light area (brothel) located at the centre of the Kolkata Metro City, West Bengal-India,  it has been observed that children of CFSWs were growing up in adverse social, cultural and economic milieu. It was differed from poor and backward marginalized community. From their infancy, they were accustomed with their mother profession. In their words, their mothers passed time with different men in the closed door for money. They were well-acquainted that they born in a separate community as well as special stigmatized community. They learnt slung and abusive words from their early stage of language development. During any interpersonal disturbance, one child said to another, “ Khankir Chele” (child of a CFSW) when his/her counterpart responded smilingly, “Tui ke?”(Who are you?) and “Tor Maa!”(Yours mother!).

During daily interaction with them, some of them shared, “Sir, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ did ‘asabhya kaj’ (illicit work). They learnt to imitate sex relations at their age of 6-7 years because of their curiosity. Their movement outside their community was restricted because of their born stigma. They were in identity crisis. They were afraid of their identity because outsiders taunted/insulted regarding their community and mothers’ profession. They shared their trauma and anxiety in relation to torture of the police and clients of their mothers at mid-night. In their words, “the police raided their mother’s house and tortured her.” They also shared, “Sir, yesterday a man tortured my mother and my mother was crying. I was also crying with my mother. I had nothing to do.” There was another childhood insecurity they had to face when a mother left her child(ren) and migrated to another place with her client or paramour.They had no separate shelter because their place of living was also a place of sex trading. So, they had to stay at a street or lane day long. Even they had to wait upto late night when their mothers would farewell the last customer/client. Sometime, they took shelter at the staircases or roof of their building or local club – a platform of males of all ages. There they used to spare their time through playing indoor games (ludo, chess and others), loitering, gossiping or watching television. No one, even their mother was any time to monitor them. Their father figure was considered as ‘mayer lok’(mother’s man) or ‘kaku’(uncle) because the relationship of father was confined only with their mother. Nevertheless, there is common practice among CFSWs to alter their male partner known as ‘babu’ who was regular visitor of their own community or outsider. Their emotional involvement turned to a tie up with that particular male.

The boys learnt to consume alcohol and marijuana when they were at their age of 7-8 years. A boy at his age of 6 years had clear knowledge about different nature of liquors(‘videshi mod’-foreign liquor and ‘deshimod’-country spirit. They shared that whisky brand of foreign liquor was hard and after consumption of which they felt drowsiness shortly. On the other hand, beer (another brand of liquor) was more comparatively comfortable to drink. The girls used to involve in romantic relation at their age of 9 years with a local boy or mother’s client or outsider who used to visit their community regularly. It was found that the girls (38%) were getting marriage after leaving their mother place with their romantic partner at 11 years of age. Finally, they were deprived of with false sense of marriage and marital life. It was also observed that their partner used to leave them after sexual enjoyment for a short period (a week at the maximum). But they were only 13 years of old by that time.

There is needed an appropriate strategic model for social rehabilitation of these children. There is need programme for protection of their childhood. Their childhood would promote towards a positive 

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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Written by Harasankar

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