Prostitution in northern Central India: an ethnographical study of Bedia community

  • Rana U
  • Sharma D
  • Ghosh D
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Bedia community has been engaged in singing and dancing as ‘rai’ folk artists during the rule of monarchy in central India. It is mentioned in colonial literature that Bedia were a nomadic tribe and often engaged in criminal activities too. After the end of monarchy and change in the laws of the state, Bedias had nothing left for their survival. Therefore, Bedia women engaged in prostitution. Prostitution gradually became their primary source of livelihood. They trained their daughters to become prostitutes in the future. Girls were introduced into this profession as soon as they reached puberty. These girls worked at dance bars and also as professional sex workers in metro cities and villages. Their fathers and brothers worked as pimps/agents for the girls and their clients. Their families survived on the female’s earnings. Bedia community inhabits many villages of Madhya Pradesh and central India. Since these villages are close to the city, customers find it easy to visit prostitutes regularly, and occasionally prostitutes also visit a customer on demand. Bedia women have been vulnerable victims of their community’s traditional and cultural practices. Prostitution has a social stigma and is seen as immoral by other communities. Thus, Bedias are never accepted by other communities due to their disreputable professional practices. This paper deals with the historical understanding of the Bedia as sex workers and the contemporary situation of a particular community. The data was collected through ethnographic fieldwork from two villages (Habla and Fatehpur) and secondary sources. In particular, we shall discuss the socio-cultural aspects, family and kinship, lifestyle, the status of women, and domination of culture in this paper.




Rana, U., Sharma, D., & Ghosh, D. (2020). Prostitution in northern Central India: an ethnographical study of Bedia community. International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology, 4(1).

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