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Empowered in Calcutta: Story of a Sex Workers' Co-op


Humanizing the Economy, by John Restakis. You can read more about his work on his website by clicking here.

Vancouver-based John Restakis journeys to Calcutta's oldest red-light district to learn about a remarkable success story: the Durbar co-operative created by sex workers to provide health and financial support to members, and counter the harsh stigma placed upon prostitutes pressured into their way of life by forces of poverty and patriarchy. The series is adapted with permission from the chapter "Daughters of Kali" in Restakis's book Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital, a wide-ranging look at co-operative initiatives around the world published in October by New Society Publishers.

In This Series


Sonuka, small version

The Daughters of Kali

A story of hope and self-empowerment in Calcutta's oldest red-light district. First of four.

By John Restakis, 19 Jan 2011


Calcutta sex workers

How Calcutta's Sex Workers Built Their Own Empowering Co-op

To loosen bonds of poverty and sexual servitude, thousands have banded together. Second of four.

By John Restakis, 20 Jan 2011


Calcutta sex worker Rheka Roy

Paths to Prostitution: Two Women's Tales

Cruel realities drove Onima and Rheka to sex work in Calcutta. Building a co-op with their sisters lifted them from desperation. Third of four.

By John Restakis, 21 Jan 2011



Calcutta's Brothels: A Terrible Reflection

The Durbar co-op's successes must be measured against vast injustices that foster prostitution everywhere. Last of four.

By John Restakis, 24 Jan 2011