Kolkata sex workers children have mostly become school dropouts at an early age, owing to family background besides lack of financial support.
Till the primary classes, queries from peers on family are limited but as the children grow up, they become more curious to ask questions related to family background, residence and profession of parents. This causes humiliation of the sex worker's children. Friends often start shunning them or insulting them, once they learn the truth.
Tanzia Khatun, a school drop out, said that she started hating her school when some boys in her class started insulting her once they came to the know her background. Even the teacher started behaving in an indifferent manner.
"Those who didn't know about my background too came to know and started taunting me when I left for home. I returned home crying. I took my mom to school. When the teacher was informed he assured my mom that matter will be solved in school. But after my mom left, he didn't say anything to the boys but insulted me and said it was entirely my fault. After that I started hating school." said Tanzia Khatun.
Sonagachi, a bustling red light area in the city, is home to around 15,000 sex workers. It is estimated that in West Bengal alone, there are about 70,000 sex workers.
According to a study commissioned by the Women and Child and Social Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal and UNICEF, and conducted by the Kolkata based Jayaprakash Institute of Social Change (JPISC), the high school dropout rate of sex workers' children was also due to the inability of their aging mothers to fund their education.
"Dropout rate is very high in the 5 to 7 age group more specifically among the girls. We have observed that the children whose mothers are little aged, their dropout rate is higher because the age of the sex workers has an inverse relationship with the income of the mother. Higher the age, lower is the income." said Professor Joydev Mazumdar, Director, JPISC.
The study surveyed 1200 families and found that of the 2003 children, 471 never attended school, 384 stopped going to school in the pre-primary stage, 758 stopped going to school after the primary level, 377 completed secondary levels while only 13 managed to continue till the higher secondary level.
The study found that all sex workers were keen to provide education to their children and almost all enrolled their children in school. 70 percent of the sex workers' children are admitted to schools by the mothers themselves while about 27 percent were helped by non-profit organizations to join schools.
Although prostitution is illegal in India, it is a thriving underground industry. Voluntary groups estimate that there are about two million women sex workers in the country.