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Asia

Magazine helps children escape brothel life

Children of prostitutes often end up working in the trade themselves. But some brothel children in India, who have launched a unique handwritten magazine, are making efforts to escape the trap.

Hunched over a sheet of art paper, Farzana, a 10-year-old girl, is drawing picture of a doctor at work in a hospital. Thirteen-year-old Haidar is busy writing how he dreams to become an engineer. Neeta, another 14-year-old girl is engrossed in writing a poem on how a caged bird wants to be free and fly around in the sky.

Farzana, Haidar and Neeta are children of prostitutes at a red light district in Muzaffarpur city in Bihar. They are sitting at the makeshift office of a local non government organization Parcham, in the middle of the red light district, preparing contributions for a forthcoming issue of their monthly magazine Jugnu.

Jugnu- which means "glow worm" in Hindi, consists of 32 sheets, photocopied from hand-drawn or hand-written pages carrying poems, pictures and articles, mostly contributed by children from the red light areas in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts. Occasionally, contributions from prostitutes and activists are also published in Jugnu, which is sponsored by Parcham, which means "flag" in English.

One child contributor of the brothel magazine Jugnu is showing her drawing to another child contributor. They all are children of prostitutes. (Photo: Aziz Rahman / DW)

Jugnu is a platform for brothel children to share their dreams and nurture talents

Growing up underprivileged in society, where prostitution is seen as a vile profession and prostitutes' relatives face scorn and discrimination, almost all children of prostitutes end up dropping out of school. And the daughters of the prostitutes most often choose their mothers' profession; their sons often turn to crime later on in life.

Parcham aims to help the red light district children join mainstream society by guiding and supporting them in different ways. In addition to supporting the monthly magazine, the NGO encourages the children to stay in school.

Idea behind it

President of Parcham, Naseema, who only goes by one name, told DW the purpose of Jugnu was to act as a platform for brothel children upon which they can express their ambitions and nurture their talents.

"Our children do not have access to many privileges their counterparts enjoy in mainstream society. Some of our children are also school drop-outs. Putting the magazine together helps all these children exercise their talents and make them dream of a future life outside this ghetto," Naseema explained.

An Indian sex worker (L) speaks on a phone as anoother sits by a window in the red light district of Kamathipura in Mumbai (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

Many children born into the brothels find it difficult to escape them

"The stigma of being children from red light district infuses their life in just about every way. But our children now see a light at the end of the tunnel - the light of Jugnu. We are gathering small dreams and trying to give them wings."

Some of the children who write for Jugnu had the potential to become doctors, lawyers, journalists, writers and painters, she added.

An editor of the magazine, who goes by the name Nikhat, said Jugnu was the first publication of its kind.

"Most people living in this area have no other option but to follow this traditional profession. Red light areas are like a dark hole in society. Our Jugnu aims to guide people out of this hole," she told DW.

"Like all our child contributors, I am also a daughter from this red light area," said the 19-year-old university student, who wishes to become a journalist.

"Society cannot believe that I can do something other than pursuing the profession of a red light district woman. To prove that wrong, we have launched Jugnu."

Helping children escape

Paresh Prasad Singh, the local secretary of the Indian Red Cross Society, says that by launching the magazine, Parcham has helped the children of the brothels take a big step towards the mainstream society.

One child contributor of the brothel magazine Jugnu is showing her drawing to her editor NikhatMothers of both are prostitutes. (Photo: Aziz Rahman / DW)

Many of the contributors feel inspired to stay in school

"The impact of Jugnu is clearly visible in the red light area. The contents of it show that some talented children are trapped there. Their drawings, write-ups and poems in the magazine show that they are no different from children in mainstream society and they deserve some space there," Mr. Singh told DW, adding that it would be wrong to not help them.

Ten-year-old Farzana, who has been a contributor to Jugnu since she was 8, says she wants to become a doctor.

"I shall not work in this area when I grow up. I want to study medicine and become a doctor. People will respect me and it will bring laurels to my mother," Farzana, who is in 4th grade at school, told to DW.

Farzana's mother, Ruqsana, expressed her gratitude.

"I don't want my daughter to be in this profession. My daughter loves her studies and is known as a good student at her school. I am sure she will be in a white collar job one day," Ruqsana, who herself never had a formal education, told DW.

"She is blooming this way because of her association with Jugnu. In fact is it is helping many children and their mothers fulfil their dreams. I shall always remain grateful to Jugnu and the Parcham activists for showing my daughter a way out of this brothel."

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