With the release of Gangubai Kathiawadi, we saw a seldom-discussed issue like sex workers, their identity and their rights being brought into the mainstream media and how. Looking at the hidden world of sex workers through a feminist lens, the film paved way for discussions regarding the people in the profession and sparked debates on whether or not to legalize sex trade.
As important is the dialogue that has been initiated through the film, you can have a better standpoint after knowing more about the lives of sex workers. Here is a list of documentaries that will help you know more about this trade as ancient as time, but still taboo behind the curtains of society.
1. Caged Until ‘Broken’: Life for Mumbai’s prostitutes
This heart-rending short documentary about present-day Kamathipura tells the story of the numerous young girls who have been trafficked into this flesh trade. Photojournalist Hazel Thompson went around the district to find more about the living standards and backstories of the women there, and the reality is as painful as the hollow look on the women’s faces. You can watch it here on YouTube.
2. Dance, Sex, Dance: The hopes & fears of Muzaffarpur’s red light sex slaves
In one of the streets of Muzaffarpur where men visit the houses there to watch women and girls dance and sing, the documentary focuses on the dark secrets behind the ‘mujras‘. From sex slavery to trafficking, one gets a glimpse into the devadasi culture of the bygone era as well, and what it has transformed into today. You can watch it here on YouTube.
3. Born Into Brothels
This Academy Award-winning documentary, directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, gives us an insider view of the world of brothels in Kolkata through (literally) the lens of children. Briski gave the children cameras to learn photography and improve their skills for a better life. The photographs were eye-opening and were even exhibited around the world. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
4. Whores’ Glory
The documentary, directed by Michael Glawogger, focuses on the lives of sex workers in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico, divided into three episodes. It sheds light on the trials and tribulations these women go through in the profession and the hopes they have for their future. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
5. Very Young Girls
Directed by David Schisgall and Nina Alvarez, Very Young Girls follows African-American girls as young as thirteen years of age, seduced and sold into the sex trade on the streets of New York. The documentary shows how they are abused by the pimps and the policemen alike and the battles they have to fight to survive. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
6. The Prostitutes Of Daulatdia
The documentary traces the lives of the sex workers in the red light district of Daulatdia, the largest in the world. From little girls being kidnapped and sold into the brothel houses, to the extremely poor and degrading lifestyle of the sex workers in the district, the documentary covers it all. You can watch it here on YouTube.
7. Sold In America: The Workers
Sold In America: The Workers follows the people involved in the sex trade in the only place where this profession is legal in the U.S. It also talks about the fight to decriminalize sex work in the nation’s capital for a better shot at their living standards. You can watch it here on YouTube.
8. Prostitutes Of God
Travelling into the heartlands of the ancient Devadasi tradition in India, the documentary shows us the murky world of the so-called religious prostitution. Girls as young as ten are sold by their parents into a life of sex slavery to temples in the name of religion and this documentary asks us to question the same. You can watch it here on YouTube.
9. Buying Sex
Buying Sex delves into the seldom-discussed issue of reforms in the prostitution laws in the country of Canada. Featuring sex workers, policy-makers, lawyers, and even male buyers, the documentary looks at the conflicting voices and fight for the legalization of sex work. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
10. Stolen Innocence: India’s Untold Story Of Human Trafficking
This hard-hitting documentary, directed by Chris Davis, delves into the world of sex slavery, where young girls are captured and trafficked to different parts of India and Nepal. With narration by Anoushka Shankar, the film uncovers the ‘world’s fastest-growing criminal activity’. You can watch it here on YouTube.
Which of these documentaries had you already watched?