I was recently given the opportunity to tour a brothel. I expected the building to be dark, dirty, and crowded, but I was still overwhelmed when I walked through the door.
The building was five stories high and very narrow. Small rooms lined both sides of the hallways and each room held at least two beds. Cloth curtains were the only separation between beds. Drying laundry hung from the ceilings on every floor.
The scene became more and more depressing as we climbed the extremely steep wooden steps between each floor. Along the way we stopped and talked to a variety of people. A team from another NGO that provided medical care for the girls and a various assortment of prostitutes and madams. We were invited into the room of a pair of sisters so we spoke with them for quite a while (I should clarify, I sat quietly while the rest of the group spoke in Hindi). One of the sisters had been in the brothel for six months and the other had only been there for a month. The sister who had recently arrived said she didn't like it there and was looking for a way out. She wanted to get married and have a normal life. Both sisters agreed to visit the office of the local NGO the following day to discuss their options. A member of our team prayed with the girls and then we left. Unfortunately, I haven't heard if they followed through. (I feel like I should mention that this is not the typical reaction to outsiders. The girls are usually suspicious and nervous about outsiders so I felt pretty privileged to to be there for such a unique conversation.)
Besides meeting the girls, three things about the building stuck out to me. There was a tiny shop (about the size of a typical American coat closet) on the first floor that sold things like tobacco and biscuits, a fruit guy had carried a basket in and was selling his product on the 3rd floor, and I passed the power bill delivery guy on my way out. It looked like each room received a different power bill, I can't imagine how long it takes him to hand out all the bills.