She carefully slid the straps of her little black dress and curled up her pink lips in a shy smile as she watched her image in the mirror. He would perhaps not even notice the dress and how it stood against her ivory fair complexion when he will undress her in a hurry. But it hardly mattered—her body paid the price for the expensive dress that he had brought from his trip to Paris last month. He was her client and she choose to be his escort. Dabbing her favourite French perfume, she went out to meet him.
Prostitution is illegal in India and there are millions of unfortunate girls who are forced into it. However, there’s a growing section of women who are trading in their body voluntarily. Yes, we are talking about the high-end escorts.
Meet 24 year-old Kajal Verma, a student of one of the prestigious universities in Delhi. Even before completing her education, she has found her ‘perfect’ job that offers convenient working hours and great money. “I belong to a middle-class family from north India and cannot afford a lavish lifestyle without working somewhere. I utilise my free time to earn some money,” tells Kajal as she flaunts a new cell phone she had bought recently.
We live in a society that judges people by their profession. A doctor or engineer might be considered a highly-respected occupation, while a painter or a dancer might not be appreciated much for their choice of profession. A girl staying at home all day might be considered an ‘ideal’ woman, while the one returning home late might lead to some gossip and speculations in the neighbourhood. Let’s not even get into the discussion about what society would think about a girl who becomes a prostitute by choice!
Kajal is one of those high-priced prostitutes who have entered this profession by choice and have no qualms about it. “You sell your brain, we sell our body. What’s the fuss about? I feel, our society is still very judgemental. If a boy and girl go on a blind date and end up having sex—that’s fine. But if the guy pays the girl for sex, it becomes unethical,” opines Kajal.
With clientele that includes business men, engineers, lawyers, doctors, architects and others from educated backgrounds, Kajal feels no other profession would have provided her such exposure. She recently went for an all-paid trip to Australia with one of her clients who attended his college reunion there and introduced her as his girlfriend. She feels her job is much more than just having sex. “I should be able to hold a good conversation on almost any topic. A well-read woman is actually a turn on for many men. I need to be fluent in English and master something as basic as table etiquettes,” says Kajal, adding, “And of course, I spend a good amount of money every month to stay in shape and take care of my skin. Clothes and make-up are generally gifted by my clients.”
Being a prostitute by choice!
Similar is the story of Nisha Kapoor, a 26-year-old call centre employee. She shifted to Delhi after completing her graduation and always felt her annual package was not enough to buy her everything she desires. One of my friends (who was already into this profession) took her to a high-end party one day, where she met a “handsome” businessman, and that’s how she made a start in this profession. “I used to be broke by the end of every month and did not like asking my parents for money every time. Hence, I started offering my companionship to men for money. It generally takes 20 minutes for the guy to get comfortable and strike a conversation before we start the act. I must say, I have met some really good men in all these years,” shares Nisha.
Nisha has been minting “extra cash” for two years now, and we wonder what keeps her going in this trade? “Well, the extra income is enough for me to pay my car loan every month. Plus, I am able to save a good amount and secure my future.”
When it comes to family and friends, it is a tricky situation for them to explain what they exactly do. “I cannot imagine disclosing this to my parents. It’s impossible for them to understand. Only my friends who are in the same business know about it. It can be very lonely sometimes as you cannot share everything with your loved ones,” tells Kajal.
This so-called profession surely has its own areas of struggle. “The toughest part of my job is to stop myself from getting emotionally attached to someone. I also have to make sure that my client does not develop any feelings for me. Many of them are married and it can get really complicated,” adds Nisha.
Being a prostitute by choice!
On the other hand, Kajal feels her clients demand too much from her sometimes, which can be very taxing. “Men are crazy about BDSM these days, even though many don’t even know what it exactly stands for. Also I have to make sure that we always use protection, which many refuse initially.”
According to government statistics, there are over two million sex workers in the country. However, only a fraction of them, like Nisha and Kajal, are into prostitution by choice. It paints a really sad picture for the rest. Will legalisation of prostitution help? Dr. Vargeshwari Deswal, a women’s right activist and a senior faculty member in Delhi University opines, “Legalising it would surely help. Let’s get this straight—when it cannot be eliminated, it’s definitely better to get it regulated. It would help millions of girls to get their basic rights and medical facilities. And if they get cheated, they can approach the court and fight. It would help the girls from middle class families too who have been doing it voluntarily.”
But Nisha has a completely different take on legalisation. She fears a hike in competition would make her job tough, and safety is another point of contention. “It might help others but not girls like me. Legalising it won’t give us any new-found respect. We are part of an intolerant society that kills people for their eating habits. When prostitution would be out in open, I won’t be shocked to read news about escorts being burnt alive on streets. Government would just scoop out a hefty tax from us and offer nothing, not even protection, in return. It all looks good only on papers! But yes, my heart goes out to all those women who are living in dingy brothels, suffering from sexually transmitted diseases and being forced into it. Nothing can be more horrible.”
Diary of a gynaecologist
Ramnath Bhuyan is a 33-year-old gynaecologist in a small town 50 km from Guwahati. He returned home after stints in cities like Delhi and Mumbai (where people hardly visit male gynaecologists, he says), and a mostly rural set up in Sholapur .
When he came back home to work in his small town, he began to deal largely with infertility cases, which meant he needed to ask his patients about sex. He tells us about what he has learned about intimate life from his work. A woman once came to me and said she liked being on top while having sex with her husband. But she was worried. Would being on top make it harder for her to get pregnant?
She wasn’t sure if the semen was going inside her or not – you know, because it seemed like more was coming outside than going in.You’d be surprised at how common a question that is, but actually everything that needs to go inside already has.
Working as a gynaecologist in a town about 50 kilometres from Guwahati, is very different from working in the city . In cities, women didn’t ask me about the technicalities of sex. A pregnant woman or a young woman who has a problem with her period isn’t going to tell you about her sex life. Perhaps, they’ve done their homework on that front, because they have easy access to that kind of information. Instead, they asked about specific problems – like infections, STDs, or contraception, sometimes even about putting on weight because of contraceptives.
Nobody in the city came to me worried they haven’t had children yet, only for us to find on repeated questioning that the couple had not had sex at all.
In our town near Guwahati, most of the time both husband and wife come to talk to me because they think they’re infertile. I say ‘think’ because once we do the examination and tests we need to, we often find that there’s actually nothing wrong. It’s at this point that we have to start asking again and again, politely of course, if they are having a problem with intercourse. Then there are some bad cases, when the wife is just 16 years old, and we have to say that she’s probably too young to have children.
Then there was also a time when a couple came to me saying the husband had a decreased libido. But actually, the husband just preferred porn. What follows in each of these cases is a lot of counselling.
One thing that’s often common in infertility cases in rural and urban India – men flat out refuse to undergo any tests to check if they’re infertile. They say it’s all the woman’s fault. I know a man who was worked up enough to divorce his wife because they hadn’t had kids, but was still refusing to get tested himself. And then in small towns, there are women who have infertility, related to polycystic ovarian syndrome, but their husbands don’t want to spend on treatment, so they start having extramarital affairs instead.
Information or the lack of it is not always the problem. In many cases, I’ve noticed that when couples think they are facing decreased libido or infertility, it’s something else altogether. It’s that they are having mechanical sex without feelings or intimacy. Sometimes, there’s no emotion involved because the couple hardly knows each other. The fact of the matter is that they’re unaware of each other and each other’s bodies. It’s the reason many women, especially the newly married ones, come in with post-coital tears and bleeding, When we see cases like this we tell the couple that they need to talk to each other. As it is, there’s very little conversation between them: the man goes off to work in the morning, and when they go to bed at night, the man complains the woman isn’t interested, when the case is probably that she’s exhausted after a day of cleaning, cooking, washing and looking after the kids.
Sometimes, when the woman comes on her own, she says her husband isn’t interested when she is. But there is no room for her to tell her husband this.
Actually, when women come alone I hear a lot of other questions. (Sometimes, even if they do come with their husbands, they wait till they’re alone with me during examination to ask me what they really want to know). The most common complaint from women, something that she can’t say to her husband, is the age-old problem – that he always finishes first. This problem as you can imagine, is common in cities too.
And very occasionally, a woman will come alone to the doctor if she is having pre-marital sex. These women come because they need contraception, and they can’t go to a medical store because everyone will look at them weirdly. I had one bad case, a woman who had had pre-marital sex came to me with an ectopic pregnancy [where a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus]. We had to tell her parents and get permission to do a surgery even though she was over 18, because that is the norm here.
It hits me every now and then how different things are here.There are almost no conversations about sex -sometimes young women don’t know anything about it until they’re suddenly in bed naked with a man.It’s no wonder then that couples think the problem is a decreased libido or infertility when it isn’t.
Everybody, whether they’re from a village or a city, needs to be educated about sex. Once that happens, sex might even become more enjoyable -as it should be.