10,000 individuals In South Asia’s Largest Red-Light District


My step-son visited Kolkata for the first time this Christmas. He spent a total of two days in Kolkata (the bookends of a 7-day trip). His main destination was a beautiful part of Kerala on the south-west coast of India.

As he was leaving for London, I asked if he had enjoyed his trip. He replied instantly, “I enjoyed Kerala…”. 

Forty-eight hours in Kolkata (including a considerable number spent asleep) was enough. The noise, pollution, traffic chaos, overcrowding and poverty did not inspire him to put this city at the top of his “best city breaks list.” Well, lets be real, it didn’t feature on his list at all.


There are objectively beautiful places in Kolkata, but I don’t think it will ever be a mainstream tourist destination. Matters were probably not helped by my living right on the edge of the largest red-light area in South Asia. The reality of sex-trafficking and forced prostitution are, literally, on my doorstep.

“Why Kolkata?” is the obvious question.

My response is simple. “Because the reality of sex-trafficking and forced prostitution are on my doorstep”.

When I can’t sleep because of the constant traffic noise… when I step in the various bodily excretions (animal and human) that line the roadside… when I wonder how my respiratory system is fairing when I blow my nose and the tissue contents are black from pollution… when I am offered money for sex while I simply wait for a taxi… or when I walk by yet another drunken customer sleeping off his night of carnal indulgence…

That is when I think of the 10,000 women (and girls) who have found themselves in the sex trade through no fault or choice of their own. 24/7 they exist to be purchased and violated.

But I am not here for an anonymous collective — sometimes 10,000 unfortunate women just sounds like another statistic. I am here for each woman (and girl) that is fighting for freedom. Women like Rani who is so intelligent and analytical… like Pinky who has a childlike sense of fun and joy… like Baby who is always the first to champion the cause of the vulnerable. Yes, I am here for these women!

Don’t read these names and not be moved. These are real women, just as real as your mother, sister, daughter, or best friend… each one is unique, beautiful, and worthy of being loved.

I am in Kolkata for 10,000 individuals, each of whom matters.

About the Author

My name is Frin. I was born in the UK, but spent my childhood in South East Asia before returning to study law and then later, nursing. I am married and have two adult step-children. My husband and I have been living in Kolkata, working with Freeset, since January 2017 and plan to stay as long as we are able. 

My time is invested in community outreach, running the community center (soon to be centers once The Cup café is up and running) and helping women begin their journey away from forced prostitution towards freedom. When I get a chance, I love rock climbing, ice climbing, caving and hiking. I sing, play the piano and cello, enjoy reading a good crime novel, and doing anything creative/artistic. Having overcome many personal traumatic experiences, I am passionate about empowering others to find freedom and restoration. I believe in living life to the full and appreciating the simple beauty that surrounds.

Add subheading.png

Share this article!

Crystal Russell