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 bodies voluntarily. Yes, we are talking about 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 utilize 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 neighborhood. 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 escorts 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 businessmen, engineers, lawyers, doctors, architects, and others from educated backgrounds, Kajal feels no other profession would have provided her such exposure. She recently went on 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.”
Similar is the story of Nisha Kapoor, a 26-year-old call center 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.
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 legalization of prostitution help? Dr. Vargeshwari Deswal, a women’s rights 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 legalization. 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. Legalizing 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 the streets. The 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.