Women from the red-light district are finding healing through theater

Mumbai Woman in Theater

From Mumbai’s red-light district to Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, these young women are turning their stories into powerful performance.

With the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe at an end, there is one story unique among them all. This year, a group of young women from Mumbai’s red-light district performed their own stories of living as the daughters of sex-workers.

Outsiders might call the red-light district dangerous, but Sandhya calls it home. “Growing up in our community is amazing,” she says, “because the sex workers there are like our mothers.”

Sandhya and many other young women have left the red-light district and are currently living together in a hostel, thanks to the help of Kranti, an NGO that seeks to empower marginalized young women from the this area not only to change their own lives, but to improve the world. Now, these young women are telling their stories of abuse and discrimination through theatre, and they have plenty to tell. Sandhya recounts how, when she started attending school, she was made to sit in a classroom by herself, away from the other kids, because she was the daughter of a sex-worker. Rani, 16, was abused by her stepfather for years after her mother brought him home to live with them on the same day that her father died.

But the show they are performing at the festival is one of healing. “Do you know what makes me successful?” Rani asks, smiling. “The fact that I have let go of my anger for my stepdad and also for my mother. Now I can see that they are also human beings and trying their best at life.”

Sandhya insists, “My abuse can’t stop me from what I can do. And my background can never be my weakness.”

Strength and peace radiate from their smiles, but it is not despite their background. Rather, they say, it is because of it. “My past is my strength” is their chosen motto, and those words say it all. These women are choosing to make their stories ones of healing and endurance, and spreading a little more to the rest of us in the process.


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