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Kamathipura is no longer known by this name. Kamathipura (also spelled Kamthipura) is Mumbai's oldest and Asia's second largest red-light area. The place is so much famous for its brothels that it’s now being called the Red Street of Bombay. Needless to say, this place is one of the most dangerous zones in the city where the crime rate never comes down.
Kamthipura was first settled after 1795 with the construction of causeways that connected the erstwhile seven islands of Bombay. Initially known as Lal Bazaar, it got its name from the Kamathis (workers) of other areas of the country. Due to tough police crackdown,rise of AIDS and government's redevelopment policy that helped sex workers to move out of the profession and subsequently out of Kamathipura, the number of sex workers in the area is going down. In 1992,there were 50,000 sex workers here which was reduced to 1,000 in 2016.
Life in Kamathipura - Mumbai
Some Girls are pushed into the trade at a young age, at times even before they attain puberty. They are, thus, not aware of the trap they are falling into. Once in the trade, there is no escape till the brothel keeper has earned well enough through them. Here they are subjected to physical and mental torture if they refuse to abide by the wishes of the keeper. As most women have no formal education, they have no knowledge of how much they earn. When they are allowed to leave the set-up, they are most probably a victim of life-threatening diseases like AIDS, without any place to go. In all probability, they will continue in the area and start soliciting and earning. Once trapped in the trade, women get pulled into a vicious circle from which escape is difficult. They get succor through the contacts with organizations working in the area. They form the bridge for them to develop linkage with the outside world, which also form the support system to the women, should they choose to move out of the trade.
NGOs in Kamatipura - Rehab for Workers
Many organizations work in Kamatipura, dealing with aspects like rescue of minors, health awareness and treatment with special focus on AIDS and other STD, providing counseling services, de-addiction programs, skill development and training, etc. Some organizations help in taking care of the children of the workers by providing full-time care, protection and education through the day/night care shelters or residential homes away from the red-light area.
Government organizations like MDACS (Mumbai District AIDS Control Society)[who?] have played a very prominent role in generating awareness on HIV/AIDS through the assistance provided in providing free literature and organizing street campaigns.
There are many organizations working in Kamatipura: International Justice Mission, Navjeevan Centre an undertaking of Marthoma Church, CCDT, Prerana, Oasis India, Jyoti Kalash, SAI, Bombay Teen Challenge, Stop Sex Slavery, Salvation Army, Apne Aap, etc. Each organisation has independent specific goals which could be health, education or overall rehabilitation of the workers and/or their children.
In 1986, the first ever Night Care Center in the world was conceptualized by Prerana to provide shelter for children of women working in red lights areas.
The Sanghamitra collective, run by workers of Kamatipura, has provided practical assistance to women as well as helping to rescue children and trafficked women from the brothels.