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A file photo of sex workers in Delhi . The number of sex workers in India is estimated at three million according to a 2007 study conducted by the ministry of women and child development. Photo: Mint
A file photo of sex workers in Delhi . The number of sex workers in India is estimated at three million according to a 2007 study conducted by the ministry of women and child development. Photo: Mint

Through Nath Utrai, NIFT students aim to look at prostitution as any other profession

A team of NIFT students is documenting the lives of six sex workers, three from Rajasthan and three from GB Road in Delhi, including one who belongs to the LGBTQ community

New Delhi: The first photograph is of a woman in a red and black sari, lying on the rocks in an unidentified fort, with her bare back facing the camera. The second photograph is of another woman tightly holding one end of her sari close to her body in an attempt to cover her bare self.

These, and several other pictures shot by seven students from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Kangra, are part of their ongoing project–Nath Utrai (losing virginity) – aimed at looking at prostitution as any other profession and creating awareness about the need to legalize it. The team is documenting the lives of six sex workers, three from Rajasthan and three from GB Road in Delhi, including one who belongs to the LGBTQ community.

The project, led by 23-year-old Amit Chauhan, has just launched its Facebook page (a book is in the works) and the photographs on it, are mostly semi-nudes, which Chauhan says was intentional. “The idea was to portray prostitution in exactly the same form as the job is. Prostitution is selling bodies for money. If there is no parda (veil) inside the four walls, why when do we represent them in art?" says Chauhan.

The number of sex workers in India is estimated at three million according to a 2007 study conducted by the ministry of women and child development. The study reckoned that 40% of the sex workers are minors. There have been several brief spurts of discussions around legalizing prostitution in India. In fact, in 2014, the chairman of the National Commission for Women expressed the need to legalize it. However, nothing has happened since.

To be sure, prostitution is not illegal in India. Soliciting, prostitution in public places, running a brothel or living off the earnings of prostitution, and procuring, inducing or detaining anyone for sex work are all illegal.

The NIFT project combines the grit of sex work with the glamour of fashion. “As fashion designing students, we have a different way of looking at things. We have tried to look at the job like any other profession," says Chauhan.

Chauhan started visiting brothels and interviewing sex workers in the first year of his college. Three years later, six other students joined him, and together, they came up with the idea behind Nath Utrai. The team doesn’t have a publisher for their book yet, but Chauhan says they will approach a publisher soon.

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