Entry Title: "Sonagachi Girls"
Name: Souvid Datta , United Kingdom
Category and Expertise: Deeper Perspective, Student


Entry Description: Narrow alleys, enclosed by towering, decayed brothels and bright market stalls form together in a confusing, colourful maze. This is Sonagachi, Kolkata - home to Asia's second largest red-light district.The neighbourhood exists as a sprawling, illegal network of organised gangs, traffickers andvictims: a place where reporters and outsiders are threatened away by violence, politicians and police are bribed or complicit, and an estimated 13,000 prostituted women, often under the age of 18, are effectively raped everyday for £2.Over the past 30 years the district has grown in the shadows, being left to fester. State and private initiatives have failed to tackle groups of petty criminals who now control territorial authority and resources. And a growing cultural stigmatization of those involved has bred disinterest and fostered exploitation. Today, younger and younger victims of trafficking comefrom further afar.Sonagachi itself thrives off a self-perpetuating, city-wide mentality of hypocrisy, crime and ignorance. It is a word not used in public; a pit that many profit from, yet one that most, including the local media, seem to turn a blind eye to. Abroad, it continues to be largely unknown.This year I gained access to Sonagachi. I spent time with prostituted women as young as 14 who had been kidnapped on their way to school from border states. Their resilience, grace and collective enterprise astounded me; and at night, within dark brothel cells, I heard their cries for hours. Outside, police officials embraced gang-leaders and were offered their pick.This reportage is my first step in documenting the reality of Sonagachi, from rights abusesand state failure to urgent human stories. I want my report to give voice to thousands of young women who have been systematically stripped of human choice and expression. I want it to inform topical debates in India today on sexual inequality, graft and development. And, perhaps most importantly, I want it to provoke ordinary people to sit back callously no longer, but begin empathising, questioning and contributing to a process of improvement.

Story: Narrow alleys, enclosed by towering, decayed brothels and bright market stalls form together in a confusing, colourful maze. This is Sonagachi, Kolkata - home to Asia's second largest red-light district.The neighbourhood exists as a sprawling, illegal network of organised gangs, traffickers andvictims: a place where reporters and outsiders are threatened away by violence, politicians and police are bribed or complicit, and an estimated 13,000 prostituted women, often under the age of 18, are effectively raped everyday for £2.Over the past 30 years the district has grown in the shadows, being left to fester. State and private initiatives have failed to tackle groups of petty criminals who now control territorial authority and resources. And a growing cultural stigmatization of those involved has bred disinterest and fostered exploitation. Today, younger and younger victims of trafficking comefrom further afar.Sonagachi itself thrives off a self-perpetuating, city-wide mentality of hypocrisy, crime and ignorance. It is a word not used in public; a pit that many profit from, yet one that most, including the local media, seem to turn a blind eye to. Abroad, it continues to be largely unknown.This year I gained access to Sonagachi. I spent time with prostituted women as young as 14 who had been kidnapped on their way to school from border states. Their resilience, grace and collective enterprise astounded me; and at night, within dark brothel cells, I heard their cries for hours. Outside, police officials embraced gang-leaders and were offered their pick.This reportage is my first step in documenting the reality of Sonagachi, from rights abusesand state failure to urgent human stories. I want my report to give voice to thousands of young women who have been systematically stripped of human choice and expression. I want it to inform topical debates in India today on sexual inequality, graft and development. And, perhaps most importantly, I want it to provoke ordinary people to sit back callously no longer, but begin empathising, questioning and contributing to a process of improvement.

About the Artist: