Mumbai, a megalopolis of 20 million people, best known by its former name Bombay, is a city in which extravagant mansions overlook the largest slum on earth. Not far from Western-style restaurants that serve the bejeweled elite, one-third of the city’s residents live without running water in hovels constructed of plastic, cardboard and metal sheeting.
In the midst of such poverty and wealth, and far from the routes cleared for President Clinton’s recent state visit, is the world’s largest red-light district, Kamathipura. India has more than two million prostitutes, according to the latest government-sponsored survey. But that was nine years ago, and today the number is considerably higher, possibly double. Five hundred thousand of them, half of whom are minors and indentured sex slaves, suffer hellish existences in Mumbai’s brothels.
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