Andhra Pradesh

Sex worker, grandmother at 29, thanks to drought

he ruthless drought gripping Anantapur district produces weird extremities in the lives of people. This is the story of a woman who is a grandmother of a three-year-old at 29 years of age. She was sold into prostitution at 11. In Kadiri division of Anantapur, a hotspot of the fallout of relentless drought, many a tribal woman has a similar horrid tale to tell.

Rupa Bai (name changed) today lives a life of acute poverty with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Kadiri town after living nine years of hell in the red light areas of Delhi, Pune and Bhiwandi.

Rupa Bai is woman from the Sugali tribe. She was married at 10, and her husband’s family borrowed money to pay her father a bride price, as is the custom in the tribe. She conceived when she was 11 and her husband died just a few months later. Her father-in-law, who had slipped deeper into poverty due to debt, took her to Delhi, saying he would find her a job. He sold her in the red light district of New Delhi.

“They cut my hair, and asked me to wear very short dresses. I refused and was beaten severely. Then a Telugu-speaking girl from Talupula mandal (in Anantapur district) told me that I was now sold and my only recourse was to solicit clients and that there was no escape.

I begged my first client in Telugu to show me a way out. He didn’t answer,” says Rupa Bai.

Over the next nine years, she was sequentially sold to dance clubs in Pune and Bhiwandi. “They held my daughter hostage so I would not try to escape,” says Rupa Bai.

According to NGOs working among rescued sex workers in Anantapur say more than 1,600 women from the drought-ravaged Kadiri region have been either rescued by the police, or managed to escape, from brothels across the country.

Anantapur district accounts for more than 14,000 such women in the last ten years, a decade of relentless drought.

Tribal hamlets in Talupula, Nallamada, Kadiri, Gandlapenta and Nambulapula Kunta mandals are home to astounding number of women who either voluntarily sacrificed their lives to feed their families or pay off debts run up by their husbands or fathers.

“For one and a half year, all I cared for was how much money I was earning per day. I never thought about the number of clients who used me. All I could think of was the debt I had to repay. Just nothing else,” says Ramanamma, a remarkably beautiful woman in her early 20s. She is HIV positive.

Today she lives alone, taking the free anti-retroviral medication given by the government. She still solicits to enable her to afford her the nutrition she needs to prolong her life.

“Lack of livelihood due to the drought is the primary reason for these women taking up the flesh trade.

Less than 10 per cent of these women documented by us are victims of bad decisions. Most know what they are getting into,” said S.V. Ramana, who runs the Kadiri chapter of the Jana Jagruti Andhra Pradesh State Aids Control Society (APSACS) at Kadiri.



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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 11:44:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/sex-worker-grandmother-at-29-thanks-to-drought/article7744994.ece

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