By Tom Gillespie @TomGillespie1

THESE photos offer a rare insight into the lives of the sex workers who ply their trade in Asia’s largest red light district

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Dipali poses for a photograph at her room in the Sonagachi brothel

The seedy world of Sonagachi in Kolkata, India, is swamped with hundreds of multi-storey brothels, housing roughly 14,000 prostitutes from all over India.

Baisakhi and Rima at the Sonagachi brothel

Many of the sex workers have been trafficked into the profession, and are forced to sleep through the day and work tirelessly through the night.

Santoshi and Sikha spend time in Santoshi's room

Other women have made a conscious decision to join the trade with the promise of higher earnings than their previous position.

Rani applies some make-up in her room before attending a customer

While checking the playlist on her newly bought smartphone, a Sonagachi sex worker named Baishaki said: “I used to work as a domestic help where I earned about £15 per month, whereas now I am earning £170 - £180.

Barsha poses for the camera while relaxing in her room

“I have come across people who have taken this profession up as a family tradition.”

Kolkata in West Bengal is nicknamed the City of Joy and is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in India.

Baisakhi, who claims to be 23-year-old, poses for a photo in her room at the brothel
Asish is the grandson of a sex worker - he is seen here posing with Priya

But the sprawling streets and nocturnal life of Sonagachi appear to buck the trend.

At weekends the red light district buzzes with customers of all ages from a range of different professions. 

Each sex worker has their own story, with some claiming to have found a better life since arriving in Sonagachi.

Jyoti feeds lunch to her three children at the brothel

Prostitute Bina, 30, said: "I was married to a drunkard for seven years.

Shankar, a resident at the brothel, smokes weed outside his room

“He used to beat me up every day. I was staying with him for the sake of my daughter.

Packs of condoms arrive at the brothel in Sonagachi

"I have found love with one of my customers and I am very happy about it."

Although the sex workers earn good money, local businessmen take advantage by upping what would be the normal price of commodities.

a shot from outside the brothel showing the hanging washing of its live in staff

Maya Banerjee, 72, spent years working as a prostitute but says she is now too old for the sex trade.

Jhumur patiently waits for new customers to arrive
Photo of Sabita, now 70, taken at a studio in 1956

Despite no longer being able to work, Maya chooses to remain in the red light district where she has spent most of her life.

She said: "A simple fish that costs 160 rupees per kilogram everywhere else is sold at 250 rupees per kilogram here. This is how their life goes on.”

A sex worker sleeps in her small room

Several NGOs and government organisations operate in Sonagachi to help prevent the spread of STDs - including AIDs.

Although prostitution is illegal, the trade flourishes and the women who work there are shunned by society.

A glum looking Rani seen in her room at the brothel

The sex working community often falls victim to rapes, robberies, and extortion.

File photo of Sabita, now 70, during a trip to Kashmir

Kabita, a sex worker turned social worker, said: “Legalising prostitution would help the government earn good revenue and it can reduce the number of crimes that occur in Sonagachi.”