Breaking any age-old tradition is not easy for a woman, particularly if she happens to be from rural India. It’s that much more difficult if she’s born in a village where it is customary for every daughter to follow in her mother’s footsteps and join the oldest profession in the world. But 45-year-old Chandralekha not only broke the shackles ten years ago, but also paved the way for others in her village. After being 20 years in the flesh trade, Chandralekha now teaches at her village school besides working for women’s emancipation.
This brave woman is from Nat Purwa, a hamlet in Hardoi near Lucknow in UP. As the peculiar history of the village goes, men do not work, and women—generation after generation—take up prostitution to earn their livelihood. Over the centuries, they silently accepted the custom taking it as their fate. There is, of course, a discriminatory subtext to it all—none of the families in Nat Purwa village force their daughters-in-law into the flesh trade. Reason: daughters-in-law come from other villages where this custom is not followed. Therefore, they should be kept out of it.