Dhaka Matriniketan

Dhaka Matriniketan a centre for rehabilitating prostitutes, was established in 1896 by Shashibhushan Mallik (b 1857) at his own house. Originally called 'Dhaka Balika Uddhar Ashram', it subsequently became known as Dhaka Matriniketan. It was moved to a rented house at Nimtola in 1898. In 1908 its management was taken over by the Eastern Bengal and Assam Government.

The liberation of women formed the central theme of the social reform movement, which campaigned against sati and child marriage and encouraged widow remarriage and women's education. Progressive reformers began a campaign against prostitution in 1895. They tried to raise public opinion against the kidnapping of young girls. They instituted cases against offenders and brought the issue before the Bengal Legislative Council. Their object was to change the attitude of civil society towards prostitution and to rehabilitate the victims. Orphanages were established following the example of Christian missionaries. Rescue centres were set up in different parts of India and in Kolkata at the initiative of the brahma samaj leaders.

Shashibhushan left police service in 1885 and became a Brahma under the influence of keshab chandra sen. He took up social work and set up Matriniketan to rehabilitate prostitutes. Here women, who had been recovered from brothels, were educated and trained so that they could find alternative sources of income. The centre also tried to return them to their families or to find suitable grooms for them. Apart from prostitutes, orphan girls and widows were also provided shelter at Matriniketan.

Matriniketan was different from similar centres in that it recovered the victimes from bondage and trained them to care for the abandoned children housed there. One such girl, Sneha Bala (b 1886), who had been recovered from traffickers, studied medicine and became a doctor. [Mahmood Nasir Jahangiri]