Mar 25, 2009

Mumbai's Red-Light District is Shrinking

Mumbai's red light area is located at Kamathipura with history going back as far as 1889. British rulers had encouraged establishment of Anglo-Indian sex workers in this area. The clients came mostly from the garrison area. Each brothel used to hang a red light outside the doors, hence the name red-light district. The red light indicated that the establishment was soliciting patrons.

1928 was licences issued to these workers and the brothels. This continued through 1950 when prostitution was banned in Mumbai, however, it was not eradicated. The area flourished, and around 1991, there were nearly 100,000 sex workers here. Then came the AIDS which over the years has claimed nearly 30,000 sex workers' lives over the past 18 years. It is estimated that there are only about 10,000 sex workers in the region now. The business at the red-light area is shrinking and is spreading over to brothels across the city, in massage parlours, and in dance bars.

Another force squeezing the area is economic. The Kamathipura area is situated between Byculla-Mazgaon and Grant Road regions which are prime real estate areas. Property developers are now making a play for the villas of the red light district. Downturn in the business and prospects of premium pricing for the location is resulting in many long time residents of the area moving out.

Soon, the red light area of Mumbai known as Safed Gully will fade into the history books of the city.