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"The other group in need of education are men who have sex with men." The sex workers of Mumbai have long attracted the interest of photographers.

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New arrivals wash up from India's poor rural hinterland, desperate for work, any sort of work.

Men – who are used to a repressed, conservative culture – come and stand and stare. A young woman might be able to charge a customer 100 rupees (£1.30) a time, but an older woman might only get 30 rupees (40 pence).

In this red light district of Mumbai, they stand on the kerbside in front of grimy shacks containing the beds on which they do their work.

There is the hustle and chaos of the traffic, the clogged roads, the constant noise.

As it transpired, the studio was only a short distance from the area in which the women worked.

But despite the geographical proximity, it was a world apart. "They were really surprised that I wanted to take their photographs in the studio and not in a brothel," Lathigra recalls, "but I did it because I wanted to isolate the women visually in a direct way.Yet on the streets of Kamathipura, campaigners have had success in educating the women of the red-light area about their circumstances and what they can do to protect themselves.In addition to education about safer sex, a number of schemes have been set up to help the economic circumstances of the women.For a culture that once created the Kama Sutra and the erotic carvings at Khajuraho, it's ironic that many subjects remain taboo – among them, men having sex with men, drug abuse and the issue of easy access to condoms."It's as if it is not possible to talk about it," says Penny Richards of the Gates Foundation.By contrast, when he set about working on the collection of images published on these pages, the photographer (and longstanding contributor to The Independent Magazine) Kalpesh Lathigra wanted to portray the women (who included some hijras, or eunuchs who dress and identify themselves as female) outside of their usual environment.

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