GB Road: Delhi’s Red Light District

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The infamous GB Road is one of India’s largest red-light districts and is home to around 3500 of Delhi’s sex workers. Lined with multi-storey brothels, the area has been a popular site for the sex trade for over 450 years.

In this feature, we take a look at the popular red-light district of GB Road, its history, its features and what it offers sex tourists visiting the Indian capital of New Delhi.

GB Road or, to give it it’s full name, Garstin Bastion Road is a road in the north of the India’s capital, New Delhi. Though the road name was officially changed in 1966 to Swami Shradhanand Marg, this popular thoroughfare is still known as GB Road; perhaps as a nod to the country’s past links to Great Britain.

red light district delhi gb road
The GB Road is one of only a few official red light districts in India. Image via Google Maps..

GB Road, Delhi: A Brief History

Running south from the Lahori Gate to the Ajmeri Gate, GB Road has been the location of Delhi’s largest red-light area since the Mughal period in the 16th century.

At the time, the city of Delhi (then, called Shahjahanabad) was fortified with walls and projected bastions. The GB Road ran the length of the northern edge of this protective perimeter and was the location of one of five red light areas of the city.

Prostitutes worked to provide sex to the city’s inhabitants and the many tradesmen who visited Delhi during this period.

In the 19th century when the British Empire established its rule, the five red light areas of the city were all consolidated and GB Road was the chosen spot for Delhi’s sex trade.

India’s Red-Light Districts: GB Road

GB Road in Delhi is one of only a handful of official red-light districts in India with the others being Chaturbhuj Sthan (Muzaffarpur), Sonagachi (Kolkata) and Kamathipura (Mumbai).

Today, the GB Road has around 100 brothels that occupy the upper floors of the tall buildings which line the street. On the ground floor of most of these premises, you can find shops and other businesses that close at night. It is a busy commercial area during the day and has a large machinery market that sells tools, hardware and car parts.

However, once darkness shrouds the city, the upstairs brothels come in to their own and the whole area is transformed into a sex worker’s paradise.

There are around 3500 prostitutes working in the GB Road area and most are kept busy every night with a steady stream of customers paying for sex.

The buildings are generally not in the best of conditions and most have an air of dilapidation about them that extends beyond the simple aesthetics to a musty smell and thick air. This isn’t helped by the overcrowding of communal areas with plenty of Indian men who haggle for the best prices with the better looking girls.

There are a huge range in the age and ethnicity of the women working in the brothels of GB Road and you can find hookers as old as 70 working alongside 18 and 19 year olds. Whilst most are from India, there are women from Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS is quite common among the population of prostitutes in Delhi and GB Road is no exception. A report conducted in 2015 by the Indian Ministry of Health and Welfare concluded that as many as 80% of women working here are infected with the disease.

As with any red-light area, there is a higher rate of crime around the GB Road than you might find on other streets in Delhi. Assaults are common and foreigners can experience various levels of attack from pickpocketing and verbal abuse to mugging and, less frequently, violent assault. Common sense and caution should be the order of the day and it is recommended that you take extra care when visiting the GB Road. Where possible, you should be accompanied when heading to the GB Road and never go if you are inebriated.

The GB Road is a place best visited during the day to get a feel for the location and, if you are intent on trying the local ‘delicacies’ then heading in early evening is deemed safer than doing so later at night.

You can expect to be approached by pimps with pictures of the girls from popular brothels along with rates. They can be quite pushy, particularly early in the evening when business is slow. Less frequently, some of the women themselves (known as ‘kothewalis’) will walk the streets, heavily made up and wearing their best saris.

brothels gb road delhi
The women at 64 GB Road are reportedly of a higher quality. Image via YouTube.

Of the brothels located on the GB Road, there are some that have a better reputation than others and No 57 and No 64 are both held in higher regard by most foreigners visiting the area. The latter is known for its Nepalese prostitutes. They both have an average age of around 20 so there are a fewer very old women working here.

The rooms in the brothels vary in terms of their décor with some being little more than austere cells with a single bed and a few ‘accoutrements’ for the trade. Others have more of a ‘lived-in’ quality expressing the personality of the girls who live there; film posters, cosmetics and floral hangings lend an air of authenticity and you could well believe you are having sex with an Indian girlfriend in her family bedroom.

It is an area that is held in very low esteem by the population of Delhi and the quality of sex workers here is poor when compared to the escorts you can organise in the city. Certainly, sex in GB Road is cheap and you can pay as little as $2 to $5 for sex but nowhere is the phrase “you get what you pay for” more apt than in this rundown area of New Delhi.

It is possible to pick up in this area on the street and to take a hooker back to a local hotel instead of using the brothels, but the same infection risks apply so stay covered.

By all means, go to GB Road to experience the atmosphere and get a look at the women who crowd the windows, balconies and narrow stairwells but think carefully before paying for sex here. Not only is it a potentially very risky way to get laid but it could end up costing you a lot more than just in cash.

There are plenty of alternatives to GB Road in Delhi and the city itself has some better quality venues such as erotic massage parlours and call-girls. You can find out more about the options for sex in Delhi by reading our full guide.

Featured image via YouTube.