Retirement home for prostitutes in Kolkata

Retirement home for prostitutes in Kolkata
Hindu women lie on the banks of the river Ganges as they worship the Sun god Surya during the Hindu religious festival of Chatt Puja in Kolkata November 8, 2013.

As a teenager, Rekha was sold by a relative to a brothel in the Indian city of Kolkata. Over the years, her earnings helped put three brothers back home through school.

Now 75 and bedridden, she lives alone in an unlit hovel, shunned by her family.

Soon, women like Rekha will have a place to go - a retirement home for prostitutes set up by the government in Kolkata, an eastern port city and capital of West Bengal state.

It will be called Muktir Alo, or Light of Freedom.

The path-breaking welfare measure - the first in India - will initially benefit 100 sex workers aged 50 and over, picked via a lottery.

They will be provided with a furnished room, all meals and health care at state expense.

It is the brainchild of two politicians: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is known as a champion of underdogs, and Ms Sashi Panja, a former gynaecologist- turned-lawmaker for the Trinamool Congress Party.

The first old-age home for retired prostitutes is housed in a two-storey government building near Charu Market - a nondescript locality not too far away from the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the playground of the rich and powerful.

The modest home will open next month after the state Cabinet's approval - a formality.

"Everything is in place; we are ready for the launch," Ms Panja told The Straits Times.

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