It was pitch black as I stumbled through the labyrinth of the dark corridors of a large brothel house in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s notorious red-light district. I’d been told to hide my camera under my scarf, not to speak and not to make eye contact with anyone. With my hand I felt the filthy walls dripping with condensation from the intense heat.
Eventually, guided by my Indian fixer, I came to a dimly lit door at the end of a corridor. Like a prison guard, an ageing madam came to the front of the brothel and unlocked the large padlock with her set of keys. I was taken into the reception area of the brothel, the space where the customers are taken to select a girl. In the ceiling I could see a small, open trap door. When the madam had disappeared, I climbed up a wooden ladder and pushed through the small gap.
Suddenly I was face to face with a “box cage”. I knew what I was looking at. The prostitutes had told me of the caged rooms and boxes they had been held in for months, even years, when they were first taken and trafficked to the red-light district. The madams would keep the girls like slaves in the cages until they were “broken”, to the extent that they would not try to run away. The girls told me they never knew if it was night or day. They were only taken out to eat or to be given to a customer for sex. For years I had wanted to photograph these cages, to prove that these places actually exist.
Source: The Guardian