In the sprawling, rough-and-tumble Sonagachi shantytown in Calcutta, India, crushing poverty is forcing thousands of girls barely into their teen years to sell their bodies for less than $2 a day.
London-based photographer Souvid Datta has traveled to Sonagachi - one of Asia's largest red-light districts - to capture the young sex workers plying their trade on the dangerous streets of their filthy makeshift town.
Datta, a 21-year-old Mumbai native who moved to the UK when he was 8, said in a statement that Sonagachi is effectively an illegal network run by street gangs and sex traffickers.
Outsiders, including reporters, are not welcome in the slum where an estimated 12,000 girls under the age of 18 are prostituting themselves to put food on the table, the site Design Taxi reported.
The photographer explained that he decided to shine a spotlight on the shadowy world of the Kolkata sex trade and put a human face on the abstract concept of prostitution after witnessing years earlier a little girl being led into an alleyway by a middle-aged man.
As a teenager, Datta returned to Kolkata as a volunteer for a non-governmental organization. Entering Sonagachi, Datta remembered being struck by the corruption of complicit politicians and police brass, and the daily injustices endured by the town's destitute families.
The infamous hub of prostitution and crime was also the subject of the 2004 Oscar-winning documentary Born Into Brothels, which profiled the children of prostitutes living in Sonagachi.
As Datta's series of striking photographs shows, little has changed in the 10 years since the release of Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski's poignant film despite efforts by various NGOs operating in Kolkata.
Datta said that most children drop out of school at a young age to help their families, with many girls falling into the flourishing sex trade and boys joining street gangs.
The photographer has admitted that his powerful images offering an unflinching look at the lives of those unfortunate enough to call Sonagachi their home are not likely to affect immediate change or put an end to the sex trade.
However, Datta continues to believe in the power of the image, and he hopes that his project will start a dialogue and spur real action by giving voice to the voiceless - the little girls with crudely painted faces who are being denied a chance to rise above their circumstances.
Born into brothels: Heartbreaking photos of Calcutta's notorious red-light district where thousands of girls are forced into sex work By SNEJANA FARBEROV PUBLISHED: 03:26 GMT, 17 January 2014