Friday, April 17, 2015

Comfort the Afflicted; Afflict the Comfortable

Via MM & Laura Agustin, Gay Kiwi advocacy group GayNZ promotes anti-trafficking organization SweatsHope, aimed at ending prostitution in Kolkata (nee Calcutta if you're my age). Find the EE-relevant remark in the following quote:
Sonagachi, a suburb of Kolkata, is one of the most infamous red-light/sex districts. Several hundred poorly maintained, multi-story brothels and an estimated 11,000+ sex workers line the streets daily. Poverty has left them without options; the cries of their hungry children, mothers and brothers drive them to sell their bodies. 1 in 18 Sonagachi women involved in the sex trade industry have HIV.
Poverty has left them without options, indeed.

The founders wish to open a factory there to offer sex workers alternative employment, combined with education and health care.

That sounds awfully nice. In fact, it almost sounds like the sort of thing you'd hear from someone who's never tried to open a business in India, let alone Kolkata. I hope these young gentlemen have plenty of contacts in the Raj lest they be in for a very rude awakening.

Employment under the Kafkaesque administration in immiserated areas like Kolkata is far from euvoluntary. But asking what institutional barriers exist preventing the region from developing is an important first step to solving the problem. An even more important second step is to ask what a couple of bright-minded foreign youngsters can do to eliminate or bypass the well-entrenched special interests that extract rents and erect entry barriers in one of the world's most chronically underdeveloped cities.

Best of luck though, gentlemen. If you do get your factory up and running, I sure hope you produce something of value. Do try to remember that this is the point of operating a business. If you can't produce value for your customers, you're just running a charity house. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course.

Do reconsider your anti-whore rhetoric though. Selling sex might strike you as icky, but it's probably better than starving in a gutter.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?