MUMBAI: Kamathipura, the famous sex-trade area has been known as the biggest “Red-Light District” of Mumbai. In fact, it was described as the second largest “Red-Light District” of Asia. It gained notoriety as a major sex trade center during the British Raj.
History of Kamathipura
The dark and narrow lanes and bye lanes of Kamathipura were lined up with small buildings along with multi storied bungalows in close proximity. British troops and foreign tourists visited these ‘sex trade bazaars’ for their pleasure and the area was an entertainment district for them. A large number of local pleasure seekers also patronized sex trade. This red light area had sex workers and brothels which suited every budget.
There were sex workers who lined up on the streets as the descended whereas there were many others further inside the red light zone, who attracted their customers from their cage like room. Finally there were the highly paid sex workers, who remained at their bungalow type brothels, and pimps were pressed into service on their behalf to bring customers.
Why “Red Light Area”?
British government regularized prostitution by issuing licenses to brothel owners and each of the these brothels were given license numbers. These brothels were asked to put a ‘red-light’ which had the brothel number, at the door of brothel. As this sex trade district usually carried their brisk business during night time, the area saw a large number of red lights, hanging at the doors of every brothel. Therefore, the area came to be known as the ‘Red Light Area’ or ‘Red Light District’.
During the British-period, ‘sex trade district’ or ‘red light district’ extended from ‘Kamathipura’ to ‘Falkland Road’, ‘Dawlat Cinema’,’ Sukhlaji Street’ to ‘Foras Road’.
Apart from these, Red Light Areas were also present in vicinities of Grant Road, D.B.Marg as well as Khetwadi areas of South Mumbai.
Advent of “Kamathi” Community
Kamathipura had an international reputation. This area was basically a colony of construction laborers from the “Kamathi” community of Andhra Pradesh, who came to the city for seeking jobs, and settled down in this area.
British Rulers built ‘Bombay’ city by linking seven islands through causeways, during 19th century. As the construction work boomed in the city ‘Kamathi’ construction laborers from Andhra Pradesh came to the city for work. Majority of them resided in the area, in South Mumbai which came to be known as Kamathipura.
Many of those brothels thriving in these lanes of Kamathipura have moved out due to lack of space for expansion, increase in the number of local residents and advent of redevelopment of old buildings in the area, fetching greater rates for their properties.
People coming into the city in search of jobs initially settled in these areas at cheaper rates. As the number of local residents have increased, people have started taking actions against these brothels running in the vicinity to shut shop forcing the brothel owners enough agony to move into much cheaper areas outside of Mumbai.
Kamathipura today has large markets comprising clothes, utensils, wood, scrap etc forcing the brothels into secluded spaces in the area. Many believe that soon all the brothels would move out of the area and it won’t have this ill-reputation ‘Kamathipura’ carried for decades.