Saturday 20 April 2013

Sex workers and Poverty

" Pinhaa tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyaan ke
Udhne hi na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue "

The above sher (couplet) of the great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, was used by me in my order in Budhadev Karmaskar vs. State of West Bengal, Cr.Appeal 135/2010 (see 'sex workers' on my blog

The word 'pinha' means 'hidden' or 'concealed', 'daam' means 'net', 'sakht' means 'hard' or 'cruel', 'qareeb' means 'near', 'aashiyaan' means 'nest', and 'giraftaar' means 'caught' or 'arrested'.

The sher therefore means :

"Near the nest was the hidden cruel net (of a hunter)
Even before the chick could take its first flight it was caught".

In India perhaps there are 20 million or more sex workers (prostitutes). They have been driven into this profession not because they enjoy it but because of abject poverty. The massive poverty of about 80% of our population of 1200 million people is the real cause of exploitation
of women. To fill their stomachs these poor girls have to sell their bodies. These girls should have had a life of happiness, but instead they get caught in the flesh trade because of their poverty at a very early age and their lives are ruined.

I have compared these innocent young girls to the chick which is caught in the net of a cruel hunter in its very first flight.

Urdu poetry has, among other qualities, a unique feature. An Urdu verse can be given a meaning by the reader which was never intended by the writer. Surely Ghalib, when he wrote the above couplet, never thought it could be applied to sex workers !


  1. no human rights for sex assured law for them...if any sex worker is being gang raped and beaten then where she would go for justice?which constitution give them justice?
    we can merely speak by opening our large mouth full of simpathy but no one can do anything for them. you are also not an exception sir, with all respect.
    very thanks for talking about this issue....

  2. Fascinating lines and poignant!

  3. At least a strong vigil at inter state bus stands and main railway stations by plain clothes police women may bring down the human trafficking trade to some extent. These are the main transit points. Katju saab is very well aware that ladies in tandem with male criminals play very important role in this human trafficking when an innocent girl is transported to other state/station. In that event that lady play as camouflage at bus stands and railway stations so that the general public is be fooled. Later that girl is sold in the flesh market where she is beaten and thrown in the ugly trade.Admittedly Mr Katju was tough in his judgement on these criminals during his tenure as judge.

  4. Well interpreted! Its timely n need of the hour that chickens should be protected from cruelty. As we all strive for FREEDOM FROM FEAR, why not SEX WORKERS? Are they not humans? Recent incidents shame every individual in this nation. Impart value-based education and implement existing laws at least, strictly. Its easier said than done and takes time. But society has a role to play.

  5. Sex in the city is a fabulous show!

  6. So true sir and what an apt analogy. But would you for a moment put thoughts to women who use sex as a tool to achieve progress and selfish goals. Who twist laws created to empower and protect women to abuse the marital rights of another... these are women who have prostituted their thoughts, values and lastly their bodies to better their own lot in life while leaving another woman and her children hurt, insecure and angry. Are such women not to be made accountable for a degenerating social fabric? Are they not to be punished? Are they any better than rapists who seem to abound?

  7. Wouldn't banning the illegal industry to its entirety make these needy women to deviate elsewhere?

    1. The needy women did not create this industry. The Greedy ones did ... they will continue to rape and exploit ... see what happened to the women of the dance bars of Mumbai.