Sex [Work] and the City

A short video essay on how sex work shaped Kolkata, narrated by Dr. Paromita Chakraborty.

Kolkata, the city, has been shaped by its location, the wars that have been fought via its ports, the waves of migration from across the borders, and of course, the ubiquitous British presence and its shape shifting morality.

In this film, Prof Paromita Chakraborty of Jadavpur University explores how Kolkata was also inherently shaped by sex work; the way the city spread, the gender roles tightened, and the class dynamic solidified. The film looks at the current pandemic as an echo from the past, when the British passed the Contagious Diseases Act of the 1860s, which gave the state the power to regulate ‘common prostitutes’, in order to reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases within the British army and navy.

Creating a visual experience of Kolkata being built through the eyes of the sex workers, the film combines archive material with impressionistic recreations, to tell the tale of one of the oldest cities through one of the oldest professions.

Produced by The Third Eye, Nirantar Trust

The Third Eye is being written and developed by a team of educators, documentary filmmakers, storytellers; people with extensive experience of gathering narratives, oral histories and developing contextual pedagogies for the rural and the marginalised.

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