“The biggest gift you can give to yourself and others is forgiveness.” This is what 16 year old Rani a daughter of a sex worker says after running away from her indifferent mother and abusive stepfather seeking shelter and a new life at Kranti an NGO. She has let go of anger against her mother and stepfather and discovered her strengths to overcome a murky past.
Rani and 14 other girls aged from 15 to 22, all daughters of sex workers and trafficking survivors from Mumbai’s red-light district changed perceptions of human trafficking when they dramatized their experience at the world’s biggest arts festival last month.
“Lal Batti Express (Red-Light Express)”, which premiered in London before going to the Fringe, is an improvised show in which the stories of women, some of whom were victims of trafficking, are told as a train journey which stops at different stations reflecting periods in their life. “Lal Batti Express” includes dancing, singing and storytelling and the girls are appearing as part of the Fringe’s Just Festival, which focuses on social justice issues. All the actors have been helped by an NGO, Kranti, which works to turn sex workers’ daughters into agents of social change.
Kavita Hosmani and other daughters of sex workers enact their experiences in a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe. Playing the part of an abusive client or a lecherous policeman wanting sex or money comes easily to her. “We have seen all this and there is nothing to hide; it’s what happens, it is part of us,” she says.
The 15 young girls performed last month nine shows inside a church at the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, as well as performing at theatres, community centres and temples around Britain. Written by the performers themselves, the play follows the lives of sex workers’ daughters, moving from their birth to growing up in a brothel to joining Kranti. Many of the actors on stage have harrowing pasts and a history of abuse, violence and depression.
By offering insights into the families of sex workers, the play is an attempt to erase the stigma that their mothers and other sex workers face. It is also an attempt to make the audience understand what it means to be a sex worker and/or to be part of one’s family.
The girls are studying at Kranti School, which was started by a charitable trust to help those born in Mumbai’s red-light area and also to help the victims of trafficking who are pushed there. Talking about their transformation, Robin Chaurasiya, director of Kranti said, “It’s been an amazing journey to watch the girls develop their voices, confidence, and personalities through theatre. But more importantly, it’s so inspiring to watch the number of people they reach and how many mindsets they change along the way. Robin Chaurasiya, 32, American co-founder of the NGO, said “Lal Batti Express” aimed to not just tell a story but to challenge stereotypes about sex workers.
Kranti also aims at providing a better quality of life to these girls, which is not possible in regular schools. Shweta Katti was the first student from Kranti who got admission in an American college. She is also the recipient of the UN’s Youth Courage Award.