A very different kind of tradition

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

On this week’s show, group of sisters discuss how a simple piece of cloth can cause a vibrant debate in the Maldives.  And in a small  Indian village we find another tradition only less conservative, here the men are pimps and the women are all prostitutes.

Nat Purwa, a hamlet in India's Uttar Pradesh state, resembles any other poor village in north India. But there is one major thing that marks it out from the millions just like it around the country.  The village of Nat Purwa is in effect one large brothel.

According to legend, a warrior conquered the village 350 years ago and forced all the women into prostitution.  And since then the women of Nat Purwa have been prostitutes, the men pimps and all the children born out of wedlock.

 But one woman has bucked the trend. Chandralekha is now 50, and like all her village friends, she’s been selling her body since her teens. A few years ago, Chandralekha did something no other woman in Nat Purwa had ever done.

Talking about the Veil 
Women in the Maldives have traditionally enjoyed more freedom than their South Asian counterparts.  They are free to choose their own husbands and divorce them when the marriage isn’t working out.

However, recent political unrest and increasing religious tensions have fuelled a debate about the way women should dress. Despite the blistering heat an increasing number of women choose to cover up.

On this week’s show we talk to the Mohamed sisters. Though they are a tight knit family , within their group of five women opinions on wearing the veil could not be further apart.

You can hear Chandralekha’s story and the conversation with the Mohamed sisters here (or by clicking on this link)