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INDIA - The Sex Workers, June 2004

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Facts & Stats

• General Background
• Population
• Government
• Economy
• AIDS in India

General Background

India is located in southern Asia and borders Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma. With a total landmass of 3,287,590 square miles, it is slightly more than one-third the size of the United States.

India is the birthplace of one of the world's oldest civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization, which emerged more than 5,000 years ago. Since then, India has witnessed several waves of foreign invaders, including the Aryan tribes in 1500 b.c., the Arabs in the eighth century, the Turks in the 12th century, and European traders beginning in the 15th century.

India became a colony of Great Britain in the early 1800s and gained its independence in 1947. In 1948, the Indian subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan.

New Delhi is India's capital. Located in northern India, flanking the Yamuna River, it is home to 13.8 million people.

Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India's industrial and financial capital, and also its largest city. Located in the central region of India's western coast, it has a population of approximately 18 million, making it the sixth-largest city in the world.

Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is India's cultural capital and home to 14 million people. It is located on India's eastern coast, along the Ganges River.

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By ethnicity, Indians are 72 percent Indo-Aryan, 25 percent Dravidian, and 3 percent Mongoloid and other.

By religion, Indians are 81.3 percent Hindu, 12 percent Muslim, 2.3 percent Christian and 1.9 percent Sikh. The other 2.5 percent of the population includes Buddhists, Jains and Parsis.

India's population surged 21 percent from 1991 to 2001, and as of 2003, it stands at more than 1 billion, making India the world's second-most populated country, after China. India grows by 16 million people every year (or 43,836 a day), just 2 million less than the entire population of Australia.

India is home to 40 percent of the world's poor, and 28 percent of its population lives below the poverty line. More than a third live on less than a dollar a day, and 80 percent live on less than two dollars a day.

India ranks 127th out of 175 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.

Less than half of India's population has sustainable access to essential drugs, which is lower than the rate in Ethiopia. The average life expectancy is 60 years for men and 62 years for women. More than half of all children under the age of 4 are malnourished, and 30 percent of newborns are significantly underweight.

On a per-capita basis, India has one-fifth the number of doctors that the United States has, and one-tenth the number that Cuba has. The maternal mortality rate in India is 100 times greater than in the developed world.

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India is a secular democracy with a federal form of government. It is the world's largest democracy, with approximately 600 million voters.

Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers, a cabinet led by the office of the prime minister, who is elected every five years. India's current prime minister is Dr. Manmohan Singh, an Oxford-trained economist who is widely regarded as the architect of India's economic reform program. Appointed in May 2004, Singh is the first Sikh to hold this position.

India's bicameral parliament consists of a Lower House, known as the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), with 543 members, and an Upper House, known as the Lok Sabha (House of the People), with more than 250 members.

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India's economy is driven by traditional village farming, modern agriculture and a wide range of modern industries, including textiles, cement, mining and software.

India's labor force is composed of 60 percent agricultural workers, 23 percent service workers and 17 percent industrial workers. Agriculture accounts for 25 percent of India's gross domestic product, industry 25 percent and services 50 percent.

In recent years, India has become a major exporter of software and software services. Software exports, which grew by 30 percent in 2003, now constitute 32 percent of India's total exports. Information technology has helped India's economy grow by roughly 6 percent a year since 1990. Financial analysts predict that software will account for 8 percent to 10 percent of India's gross domestic product by 2008.

India is also a major exporter of chemicals, leather and textile goods, and gems and jewelry. Its largest trading partners are the United States, Great Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Germany and China.

India was the world's largest producer of mangoes, bananas and cauliflower for 2002-2003.

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AIDS in India

More than 4.5 million people in India are infected with HIV, making it the second-largest HIV-positive population in the world, behind South Africa. Given India's large population, a rise of just 0.1 percent in the prevalence rate would increase the number of persons with AIDS by 500,000.

AIDS is most prevalent in the Indian states Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu, where the infection rate is higher than 1 percent. Heterosexual sex is responsible for 84 percent of new HIV infections in India.

The World Health Organization estimates that 330,000 new AIDS cases occur in India each year and predicts that by 2033, AIDS will account for 17 percent of all deaths in India and will be a factor in 40 percent of deaths from infectious disease.

Health experts say mobile workers are at particularly high risk for acquiring HIV and transmitting it to other people. For example, truckers in India are up to 10 times more likely to have HIV than are other workers. Truckers are away from their families up to 80 percent of the time, and more than half report having sex with prostitutes.

In a survey, 70 percent of commercial sex workers in India reported that their main reason for not using condoms was that their customers objected.

India has drafted a five-year nationwide intervention program to combat the spread of HIV infection. The government has allotted $320 million in funds for health, education and treatment programs.

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CIA Fact Book; Lonely Planet Guide: India; PBS; BBC; The Economist; India Times; UN AIDS;;