April 07 - Tearfund

Tearfund writer JOY ANDREW made some interesting discoveries in Mumbai when  visiting Tearfund partner Oasis India 

Prostitutes, pimps, holiness and brothels. Does something seem out of place?

Holiness is the last thing I was expecting to encounter in the red light district of Mumbai.

Does God cry?

As daylight fades, the scene is anything but holy. We are in a taxi in the red light district, surrounded by noise and chaos. Groups of girls stand in doorways, some hold small children, one brushes out her hair.

I try not to think about what is concealed behind the brothel walls. Rows of scruffy beds divided by partitions where women, made in God’s image, are endlessly robbed of all dignity for as little as 30 pence, night after dark night.

And God sees it all – the men who beat the women, who put out cigarettes on her and force themselves upon her.

In the midst of all this, Christians are working.

Bright morning sun

Earlier that day we had spent time with the staff of Aruna, which means ‘bright morning sun’. Aruna, run by Tearfund partner Oasis India, own one floor of a building in the heart of Mumbia’s red light district.

As well as the Aruna project, Oasis also works with local churches in the area to build relationships with those working in the brothels and there are plans for raising awareness of the work further.

Aruna’s building is peaceful, and throughout the afternoon, ladies who work in the brothels come to visit.

Bought and sold 

When Lajita arrives at the Aruna building, she explains to Manchu that a client bit her on the cheek the previous night. As Manchu listens to her story, her face is full of compassion.

Lajita has been a prostitute for eight years. She is originally from Madhya Pradesh, central India. One of her friends told her she could get a good job if she came to Mumbai. But when she arrived in the city, Lajita was sold to a brothel.

She met Manchu four years ago, when Manchu was visiting the brothel where she works. Lajita goes regularly to a church service held in the brothel. She says, “I enjoy the fellowship and I like to pray to Jesus”. Today she is at Aruna because she wants someone to accompany her to the doctor’s.

Holy moment

I had finished my interviews and was just watching. Afternoon sun was filtering in the windows, and the Aruna staff were sitting on the floor with the ladies, painting henna patterns onto their hands. As they did so, they listened to the ladies’ stories, finding out what they needed.

Holiness, in the middle of a red light district.

Joy Andrews is a writer at Tearfund

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