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GB Road brothels shutting down

he kothas or brothels of Delhi's infamous GB Road are gradually shutting down for the first time since their inception in the Mughal era. Aided by court orders, the police is closing down brothels where instances of human trafficking of underage women have been found.

Last week, the Tees Hazari court while hearing a three-year-old case, ordered the Kamla Market police station to close down a brothel within seven days. The court also sentenced the brothel owner, a woman named Bala, to three years of imprisonment on the complaint of a Nepali girl, who was a minor when she was rescued from there.

According to police officials and social workers who have been working in this red light area, this marks a change in the way the brothels are dealt with. "Earlier the focus was on rescuing girls from there. It was a routine matter and we would raid the brothels on a tip off and rescue the girls. However, the kotha managers would then arrange for new girls. But now since the brothels are being shut down permanently, we hope that the kothas of GB Road will be a part of history," a senior police official said.

GB Road, or Garstin Bastion Road, whose official name is Swami Shradhanand Marg, has 23 buildings housing at least 80 brothels inhabited by around 2,500 sex workers. In June this year, the police had started proceedings to close down three brothels, numbers 56, 59 and 70, after minor girls were rescued from there.

J.R Sharan, North India coordinator of Rescue Foundation, a well-known organisation combating human trafficking of girls and children, said, "I have witnessed in the last two years the effects of the judiciary ordering the closure of the kothas. Some police officers have also started taking a more holistic view of this social problem and have moved beyond limiting themselves to just raiding the brothels."

His organization has rescued close to 100 minor girls in the last one year from the area.

Life in a GB Road brothel takes its toll on the sex workers. According to Sharan, "A customer pays Rs 500 to the girl for 15 minutes and out of that, the sex worker gets to keep Rs 100. The rest is shared by the kotha manager and her broker. The worker is expected to entertain at least 20 clients every day. After three-four years of employment they are asked to go back and given between Rs 15,000-20,000 as a one time payment."

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