The Indian caste where wives are forced into sex work

For girls and women from the Perna caste, entering the sex trade is a normal next step after marriage and childbirth.

New Delhi, India – When Sita comes home in the morning, her husband is usually still asleep. She has worked through the night, selling sex on the highways tracing Delhi’s periphery, but she will bathe, cook breakfast, and get the children ready for school before getting some rest herself.

Here, in a tumble-down corner of Najafgarh, a patch of urban villages stitched into the Indian capital’s fraying hem, what Sita does for a living is no secret. Sita belongs to Perna caste, and among the women and girls of this acutely marginalised community, entering the sex trade is a usual next step after marriage and childbirth.

“My first child died shortly after being born. When [my second-born] daughter was around one year, that’s when I started this work,” she says. Married in her mid-teens to a Perna man she hadn’t met before, she estimates that she was 17 when she became the sole earner in her young family.

Now in what she guesses to be her late 20s, Sita still leaves the Perna basti (settlement), each night with other women from the community to tout for customers in “random places”: bus stops, lay-bys and parks far from their own neighbourhood and out of view of the police. They travel in a group, sharing the rickshaw fare and the risk of assault.

“We try to get it done quickly,” Sita explains. They conduct encounters in cars or hidden outdoor nooks. While one woman is with a client, a friend will make sure to stay within shouting distance. Each client pays between 200 rupees and 300 rupees ($3-$4.50). In a night, the women can expect to make as much as 1,000 rupees ($14.60), or as little as nothing.

Source: Al Jazeera. Date: 28 November, 2016

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/indian-caste-prostitution-hereditary-161122124031163.html