Born to the Trade

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In Neemuch’s Bachchda community, every girl is groomed to become a prostitute

In the Bachchda community of Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh, the birth of a girl evokes jubilation. Every daughter is an asset. From the moment she is born, it is known that she will eventually become a sex worker. She will be brought up to operate on a kilometre-long stretch of the Neemuch-Mandsore highway, with truck drivers as her primary customers. The trade is conducted quite brazenly. When a truck driver pulls over, the terms are negotiated by the girl’s father or brother, who acts as her pimp. The sex usually takes place on the bare floor of a one- room cottage that the family has set aside for this purpose. The only way out for a girl in the community is to find a suitor who is willing to pay a hefty dowry to the girl’s family. The origins of Bachchda prostitution are not clear. According to local lore, Bachchdas, once a nomadic tribe in Rajasthan, are descendants of palace courtesans. The community lives in seclusion, their trade ignored by the police and state administration.