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May 27, 2017

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Indian shelter for sex workers' daughters unable to find home

MUMBAI--A Mumbai shelter for sex workers' daughters is struggling to find a home after being turfed out of its premises and turned down by 200 potential landlords — a fate its founder believes is due to deep-rooted prejudice.

The charity Kranti — meaning "revolution" in Hindi — for the past three years rented a single north Mumbai apartment where it housed a dozen girls from the city's red-light districts.

But director Robin Chaurasiya said she was unable to renew their latest contract when it ran out and has since been refused by another 200 places — as well receiving scant help from local officials.

"We have met with so many politicians and none of them were willing to help us," she told AFP.

"They're saying the solution is to put all the kids in government shelters and wash our hands of it."

The landlord of their long-term apartment, which they had to vacate on Thursday, said he wanted to sell the property.

But Chaurasiya said neighbors began to complain when they realized where the girls came from after Kranti, which aims to empower girls to "become agents of social change," appeared in the press last year.

AFP and other media outlets featured teenager Shweta Katti, a Kranti alumnus who overcame the odds to win a scholarship to study in New York after growing up in poverty and suffering sexual abuse.

"When it started coming out that they were kids from red-light areas, they (the neighbors) started complaining every day," said Chaurasiya.

"People were perfectly fine before they knew."

In searching for a new home for Kranti's 11 current youngsters aged 13 to 19, Chaurasiya said she initially did not mention their backgrounds — "but then they ask for our papers and website and when they realize, they say no".

Kranti is working on temporary arrangements for the girls, some of whom will have to return to their parents.

Chaurasiya is hopeful that a long-term solution will be found — perhaps in a bungalow rather than an apartment — although she fears it may be beyond their budget.

"Even if we secure a place, 100,000 rupees (US$1686) a month is not an easy task," she said.

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