The Skinny Showcase: Mike Byrne

Gallery | 09 Jan 2009

For the holiday special, we've opted for a travel-themed documentary Showcase. Here we present Mike Byrne's The Sex Workers of Bangalore series, taken while Mike was working with Indian NGO Society for People's Action and Development.


Kanaka (15yrs) is a female sex worker in Bangalore.  She was orphaned at a young age and was then living with her brother and his wife who were abusing her.  She ran away from home at the age of 14.  She was quickly taken from the street by an unknown man who trafficked her to the sex industry in Bangalore.  I took this portrait 2 weeks after she had given birth to her first child.  She is wearing the scarf as she is unwell.  As she was living in a brothel she was forced to sell the baby to a local family.  She received approx. £60 for her child.  Before I left India I enquired about Kanaka and discovered that a local community leader wished to take Kanaka in as a second wife to work in his home.  Kanaka had refused to go with him so he forced the brothel to eject her onto the street.  She is now living with another sex worker and continues in the sex industry in Bangalore.  When we met I asked her what she hoped for the future.  She replied: "I just want to be able to look after myself and live a happy life."

Asha (28yrs) is a female sex worker.  She is pictured waiting outside Bangalore's state hospital where she is waiting for a fellow sex worker to be tested for HIV.  Asha is HIV positive.

Saraswathi (25yrs) is a female sex worker.  She has 2 children (Rakshita 4yrs, pictured) and another baby 6 months old to support.  Once a woman separates from a husband she cannot return to her own family.  It is considered shameful for her to be taken back in by her own parents.

Ganesh (26yrs) is a male sex worker, also known as Men who have sex with Men (MSMs).  This man is pictured outside of a public toilet near Bangalore's City Market where he picks up clients.

(29yrs) is a Eunuch Sex Worker (ESW).  Adopted by another ESW (Bommi) who then helped to fund her operation to remove her male genitals.  Currently living in the ESW colony near the truck stops of Bangalore and working nearby in a Hammam (bath house).

Chalu (21yrs) is Eunuch Sex Worker (ESW).  Chalu has considered herself to be female since the age of 11yrs.  She would cook, clean, dress as a woman and apply make-up to her face.  At the age of 18yrs she became a woman publicly but has not had the operation to remove her male genitals.  She was married to a man who would beat her and extort all of her money from her, that man was also her uncle.  She has now run away from her uncle as his financial demands were increasing, as was the physical violence.  She now shares a small house in the Sunnyasi Kunte Slum with another ESW.  They are considered to be spoiling the culture of the community and drunken youths harass them on a daily basis.  To survive she begs on the streets in the morning and works as a sex worker for the rest of the day.

To view more of his work, go to<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

For more information on the NGO and their projects, visi <a href="" target="_blank"></a>