An escapee from hell to a would-be writer

Her story

It is a story oft-heard, of a girl being snared into the flesh trade with the offer of a decent job, a good salary and prospects of a comfortable life. But Tejasvini’s life did not end up in the gloom and doom of the red light district, with its inevitable denouement of age, fatal disease and death.

Today, Tejasvini is the secretary of the Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union and is a passionate advocate for the rights of women who, unlike her, have not been able to escape their living hell.

She fights for their rights - to live with dignity, to access health care, to explore other avenues of livelihood and against harassment by police and the underworld.

A cautionary tale

By the way, she is also a would-be author. She is writing a book on her life. Not so much as a self-seeking autobiography, but more of a cautionary tale to warn other women of the risks of life, and to serve as a source of courage to those who have been unlucky.
Life took an unexpected turn when a rowdy entered her life and offered to marry her. Soon, marriage turned into hell when her husband began to batter her. A few years and a child later, Tejasvini left him and her destiny took her to the brothel.

But even the lively Tejasvini is teary-eyed when she recalls her past. She was travelling by a bus when she met a man who promised her a job. The next day, an excited Tejasvini met him and a  woman near the Majestic Bus Stand.

She was taken to a residential building in Sunkadakatte where they met a cigarette-puffing woman who was referred to as ‘aunty’. 

Tejasvini was asked to stay in a dingy room for the ‘HR person’. After four hours of waiting, a man entered the room, sat next to her and began to touch her. Her protests had no effect on him.“The man told me he had paid ‘aunty’ to sleep with me. I nearly fainted with shock. But left with no choice, I submitted myself to my fate and embarked on journey of no return.”

Resigned to her fate

She continued her stay in the brothel for five days and served more than 20 clients. “Most of the clients were drunk. They beat me, tore my clothes, burnt my hands and legs with cigarettes. My body and my dignity were scarred. Their lust for sex at the end not just left scars on my body, but more on my soul. My dignity was torn to pieces.”

Tejasvini cried a lot, but was warned not to. She was resigned to her fate. She managed to escape from the brothel and tried to look for a job.

A sanitation contractor for a MNC offered to employ her and raped her in tandem with his friend. Disillusioned and terrified of life outside, Tejasvini returned to the brothel.

By the time she lost all hope, life had another quirk to offer. A young doctor who visited the brothel, treated her with kindness and his tenderness moved her. That was the first time she had been treated like a human in years. Some tales do have happy ending. Tejasvini’s does. She married the doctor who took her away from the horrifying world of prostitution.

All this, Tejasvini wants to relate in her forthcoming book.

Risking lives for livelihood

One could easily discern these women who aimlessly wander in the premises of Victoria Hospital. Nearly 30 sex workers in the age group of 16 to 60 years spend their entire day here soliciting customers. Few of them trafficked, some forced into flesh trade by family members and financial crisis the common compelling factor.

Sakamma (33) has been in this business for more than 12 years now. She was trafficked from Mysore.“My husband conspired with a house broker and pushed me into prostitution,” she said. Sakamma earns a meagre of Rs 350 from a client and lives in the lawns of Victoria Hospital. Since the demand for young girls in this business is ever increasing, the seasoned workers like her suffer the most.

The customer who picks these women pay Rs 700 to 800 for each night. Of the said sum, Rs 100 goes for greasing the palms, Rs 200 for auto hire, and Rs 150 as lodge rent. Auto drivers, petty shop owners and rowdies are their usual customers. The scars on their hands and faces testify the suffering inflicted upon them. With no access to sex education, the sex workers woman end up getting pregnant, unaware of use of contraceptives. Add to the ignorance is the arrogance of the customers who refuse to use condoms, unaware of the risk of contracting HIV in the absence of protected sex.

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