The hookers of Tulsi Baug

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The Netherlands legalized prostitution many years back. Sex workers in the Netherlands pay taxes and their work is legally treated like any other job, from a carpenter to an office clerk. The legalizing made the very famous Amsterdam Red Light District even more visible. The girls behind the glass windows – Amsterdam also offers an occasional male prostitute to carter female customers – can now share their work with official institutions. They key objective behind this move was to keep away illegal sex workers and criminals, we also legalized soft drugs for that reason. It is generally considered as a successful strategy. However, I still read a lot of sad stories about illegal immigrants that were lured to Europe with the promise of a ‘dancing’ job. When I’m in the city I regularly cross the district, as it is located within the old city centre and a hub between several old neighborhoods. Most of the girls try to grip my attention by waving or making eye contact. My first impression is that these women look happy and satisfied. Yet, I won’t recommend you to explore that area for that specific reason. A lot of these women are not working there on a 100% voluntary basis and I also witness a lot of sad faces & surrounding crime. It generally feels ‘not ok’ to walk around, especially in the packed small streets. I felt that ‘not ok’ sign some days back, when I walked with Marie-Gon around Tulsi Baug, one of the finest area’s in Pune to buy kitchen stuff. The area, always crowded and packed with people on Saturdays, starts at the crossing of Laxmi Road and Bajirao Road. The centre of Tulsi Baug is a large vegetable market on a big square, surrounded by a temple and a few dozen temple shops. Around the market you can wonder around in small streets with several vendors. We were walking around with no specific reason of direction. I can recall the exact moment and place where I looked at Marie-Gon, turning my head around and eyeing around to observe the reason behind my ‘not ok’ feeling. I later found out that the area behind Tulsi Baug is in fact the largest brothel in Pune, I was surprised that everything was so public, so visible. Even without red lights and signs it was made very clean that these women on the streets, in front of run down apartment buildings, were there to sell themselves for a few rupees. I would not recommend anyone to walk around in that area, because you will see some rough edges of the Indian society. The girls and women – some of them are very young and a few look far over 50, although I wrongly guess ages during many occasions – look sad, unhappy and even unhealthy. We quickly moved back, to leave this cheerless area. We discussed the area later that afternoon and decided to never go back there. So, if you go to Tulsi Baug, and I recommend you to do so, please be aware and don’t walk to far away and stay in the inspiring area’s around the main vegetable market.

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