Frontline World


India, THE SEX WORKERS, June 2004



Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story below.

Anonymous - Boynton, Florida
Poor need money -- networks have it & are right in reporting on AIDS but they can do something else: adopt a child through a reputable organization like World Vision. Everyone wins.

Anonymous - Sicklerville, New Jersey
Prostitution is almost completely associated with the poverty. People do it because they are desperate to get money somehow, and this seemed to be the easiest way yet the most riskiest way for them. Raney Aronson did very well in capturing what was happening, but probably couldn't realize why exactly the problem was happening. Poverty is the reason. She does describe it in one of the questions in the interview. If there are more people getting more money, they can deviate from doing such cheap stuff.

Mindy Kaur
I am sorry I don't agree with your response. Yes, I agree India is witnessing a revolution in both economic and political front. However, we still have social problems in India. Ultimately, these looming social do effect our general population in long term. It is more important to critical view at ourselves because there is always a place for improvement. May be you are one of few people who was provided with opportunities but 70% of people living in rural areas were not provided with similar opportunities. SO, it means we still have long way to go and then just focusing on positive aspects. I don't there is anything wrong in admitting that there is lot to be done while we are optimistic.

Tabitha Sutter - Minneapolis, Minnesota
It has been over a week since I saw the sex worker story. I am still so horrified by the children who have been sold into sexual slavery. Every time I see a twelve or thirteen year old girl I feel saddened even over a week later.

I too was raised in a very patriarchal environment in which women had few in any rights but I was able to escape it simply because of the luck of the geographic location I was born. It does not matter where a woman is born, woman all over the world should be standing up for each others rights. I would love to hear more about what we might be able to do even if we are thousands of miles away. What power can we give? What more do we have than our voices to impact this problem?

Raney Aronson and her team are brave humanitarians. Thank you for doing what you can to help bring awareness of the sex workers plight. It will no doubt move people to action.

Suzanne Barton - Warren County, Ohio
I commend Frontline for bringing this issue to the world. This is not a focus upon negativity, as one post claims, but it is necessary for the rest of the world to become aware and become involved. My fiance's distant relatives are from India, we watched this program together, and it touched a nerve with both of us in respect to the poverty and struggle that is occurring in part by extreme imbalance of wealth in India due to corruption as well as the caste system.

Aisha K. - Shorewood, Wisconsin
Thank you so much for putting a spotlight on the HIV/AIDS crisis in India. I have truly been enlightened by this program. I had never heard the point of view that prostitution should be legalized and the benefits of such a change. It does make a lot of sense but the problem is so large that I doubt that in it of itself would work. More needs to be done to catch the girls when they are young and save them or at the very least make sure they know of the dangers and how to protect themselves. I am from Ghana and so I have always been very interested in issues concerning developing nations, women and children and I think that the world needs to see and understand what is going on in the world. This program did that and much more. I now know the names of organizations which help the women and can hopefully send them support in some form. Also I have found that despite all the trivial issues that people my age (20) seem to be concentrating on, when I and others bring up issues like this and others that we learn on shows like this they are actually very interested and want to understand the issue and possibly help. Please know that not only the aged are interested in your programs, youth are as well.

Reporter/Producer Raney Aronson responds:

Dear Aisha,

Thanks for your response to our story. I am so glad to hear that you and others your age are interested in being involved!

About legalizing prostitution - your response is astute. I agree that it's only one way to combat sex trafficking, and that much more needs to be done - both on a local and national level. Without that kind of concerted effort I also question that legalization will have make the difference needed to really decrease the numbers of girls trafficked into India.

One thing I saw when I was in India is that these groups welcome volunteers, and there really is an endless need for help. I'm very pleased that you are interested in getting involved.

Here is contact information for two groups we focused on in the story. The first is the Asha project in Mumbai, and the second is the group that rescues minors from the red light areas called Sanlapp.

Seema Shroff-Anilkumar
C-1/31 Ankaleshwar
ONGC Officers' Flats, Reclamation
Bandra (W). Bombay 400 050.
ASHA project: (91 22) 2655 0471

38 B Mahanirban Road,

Calcutta 29.


Anonymous - Baltimore, Maryland
The reporting was superficial and had the usual arrogant Western bias. It was aggravating to see the reporter grilling the young girls on their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and condom use. Was she expecting to find very high levels of knowledge of AIDS prevention among poor young children who have been sold into prostitution and are being kept in captivity and raped in these brothels? As one of the social workers interviewed pointed out, to the young girls who are being raped in these brothels, prevention of HIV/AIDS is not the issue foremost on their minds. HIV/AIDS does present a growing threat to India, however, the magnitude of the epidemic is not at the same scale as other parts of the world. The issue tends to loom large on the Western conscience because of the obvious threats the epidemic presents to Western societies. While it is definitely worthwhile to highlight public health concerns in other countries, the reporting should provide a balanced view of the issues that are more pertinent to the local context. Prevention of HIV is a global priority but we cannot expect Western solutions (in this case condom use) to be accepted in contexts where other more acute issues such as the violation of basic human rights remain.

Anonymous - Los Angeles, California
This was a truly moving and disturbing account of what many of us in the U.S. have difficulty comprehending - SELLING our daughters, and if that isn't enough, selling them into a life of sexual slavery from 10 years of age and older. And ADULT men continue to contribute to this abuse by paying them. This isn't just in India, but in many parts of Asia. Thank goodness for rescue organizations that can grab the girls when their pimps aren't watching and give them a better life. The irony here is that their families won't take them back. We need to help these young victims and encourage India to stop turning a blind eye to allowing forced prostitution of minors. Could you post a link to where I could donate to the rescue organization profiled that is helping these children in Bombay?

Anonymous - Cypress, California
Your show on the prostitution situation in India was very frank, revealing, and sad. I was shocked that prostitutes there are sometimes earning $.50 for sex. That is equivalent to a candy bar here. What a tragedy. Thank you for opening the eyes of us in America to the poverty of women in India. I can see that India is going to be another South Africa with millions of orphaned children due to AIDS. This show just confirms my resolve to be thankful for what I have and to continue to help those who are oppressed. Many thanks.

Anonymous - Portland, Oregon
I think funding for AIDS (or lack of) from the government has hurt worldwide AIDS. The current administration has stated that they are against condoms or any form of birth control. Just say no cannot work. Women do not have control of their bodies.

Anonymous - Portland, Oregon
I think there is a chance for India. There is always a chance, if people care....I think mass media education is the key. Schools, villages, churches, temples, etc. You have to give a lot of credit to those educators you showed who are trying to make a difference, especially in the redlight districts....... I know the country is poor and most don't have media access, but there has to be a way to teach them about aids and other diseases and how to prevent them, it seems to me that the men in this broadcast care only about their personal pleasure (no condoms) and are illiterate about the spread of diseases. For goodness sake don't they know that whomever they have sex with comes home to their wives and loved ones, they are unprotected and innocent victims...I think that is a crime......I think the only way is through the women of India, to protect themselves and their families. Otherwise there is no future for India as I see it, and its very sad they are a wonderous people, their culture is very old and interesting. I for one, cannot see our planet without a single country we have now, we are all unique in our cultures and beliefs, but we are all one on this planet. Why can't people SEE we are killing ourselves and our planet....Thank you for listening great program by the way .....A concerned American

Anonymous - Madisonville, Kentucky
Thanks for exposing light on this problem. We need more producers like this one. I plan on giving something to Asha as a result of your story. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous - Wisconsin
This was incredible, I am a teeneger obsessed with other cultures especially India. I love all you programs and I love how they are portrayed with so much actual commentary from the people in the stories I absolutely can not break myself away it is so interesting. Thank you so much for providing such incredible television worthy shows.

Anonymous - Palm Harbor, Florida
Why are you people so immersed in bringing the negative aspects of a country. India, right now is witnessing a revolution in both economic and political aspects. Why not cover the recent rise of the Indian software industry and its implications in the global market. Why not focus on the high rate of education among the younger population of India, and their technical expertise. Why not focus on the issue of secularisim in India - the country which happens to be the birth place of most of the world's major religions, yet the majority of the population live in harmony, something which a country like the United States and other developed countries are struggling with.

A Web visitor responds
I understand your concern. However, the show emphasizes only on a specific issue. Indeed, India is one of the oldest and most fascinating countries than any. There is a lot of history there in India which traces back to our roots. As long as the viewers understand the whole picture, it is fine. Whatever, the issues maybe need to be heard and addressed. Otherwise, we will continue to ignore problems in society. We all should be thankful for what we're given in life and we should do our best in order to help those who are unfortunate.

Anonymous - West Virginia
I do not believe that this coverage was done in an effort to negatively portray all of India- the immoral and illegal sale and use of children and captive women in sex trade is a significant problem - not only because of its repulsiveness, but also because if left unchecked it will contribute to the spread of HIV, eventually hobbling economic growth in India as the nation struggles with an epidemic that will prove costly both in terms of human life, and its widespread impact on the fabric of society. The story brought to light an issue about women's rights of which many of us may have been unaware - as with any nation, glossing over what India gets right won't make what it gets wrong go away. It is an issue that apparently ethics alone have not resolved- government intervention and pressure from the public and global communities will be necessary, and the best way to drum up support is to make everyone aware.