Earlier on Tuesday evening I was doing some research on Kolkata, India and was searching for some information about sex work in the city. I did a quick search for Sonagachi, which is the city’s largest red light district. In fact, it’s one of the biggest red light districts in all of Asia. Sonagachi is also the focus of the 2004 documentary Born Into Brothels. You can read about the crimes against women and girls that are committed in Sonagachi in a variety of places, or you can watch the documentary.
While doing my research to grab a couple those statistics, I discovered something disturbing: Sonagachi has a Facebook community page. Nearly 3000 people have liked that page.
The page is full of images of young women, many of whom are likely under age, as so many of the sex workers in Kolkata are. From what I have learned firsthand from people who work in Kolkata’s red light districts, many of the sex trade workers are not there of their own volition. They are there because they have been kidnapped, sold, or enslaved. The photos on the Sonagachi Facebook page are of women who are likely the victims of human trafficking.
Because the fan page also features photos of totally naked women and women performing oral sex on men, I immediately reported it to Facebook. I know that Facebook has made some positive steps lately in responding to posts that promote violence toward women, so I was hopeful that they would take action against the page. I mean, it is basically a lookbook of available sex workers, featuring explicit pornography.
I asked some friends to join me in reporting the page.
Unfortunately, we all received this message:
Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Learn more about what we do and don’t allow by reviewing the Facebook Community Standards: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards.
Let me interpret this for you: Facebook is choosing not to take action against a page that promotes the sex trafficking of women and features pornographic images of naked women performing sex acts. Many of the women are likely under age.
This is despite their own community standards, which state: Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.
This is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, there is not much that I can do from where I live in Indiana to help women who are being trafficked for sex in Kolkata. I will do what I can, but it’s not much. One of the things I can do is ask the world’s most popular social networking site not to be complicit in the sale of women and girls.
This is the link to the very upsetting (and obviously NSFW) Sonagachi Facebook page. Please join me in reporting it to Facebook and letting them know that this is unacceptable on their part.
Update: Although I don’t have the stomach to look through the pictures and galleries, it has been brought to my attention that there are children featured in some galleries, posts have been made in the last 24 hours by the page community advertising women for sex, there is a photo series about taking a teenage woman’s virginity. Please, if you choose to visit the site, REPORT IT. Don’t just click through the images. Do something about this.
This post originally appeared at Liz Boltz Ranfeld, where I blog about living and parenting as a liberal feminist Christian.