They are part of our society as well as not part of it. They are often looked down upon by the natives of the city and at the same time in the mid-dark, these natives visit them. The voices of these workers are invisible since they are not engaged in "Reputable Jobs" ( Who are we to categorize jobs into reputed or not reputed?). They are victims of poverty and unemployment, who face several societal barriers and people do stare at them with total contempt. They here are the 'Sex Workers'.
As the Covid pandemic changed the tune of everybody’s work pattern, it staggeringly brought a drastic change in the livelihood of these sex workers. The government paid no heed to this neglected society. What are they really craving for, the economic support from the government or the societal support? If being asked, how would you treat a sex worker if he/she comes to you as a guest? You are numbed by the question itself! Acceptance is a long way.
They are downhearted by the ignorance and not the Covid
From debt to depression, the livelihood of the sex workers has been depleting and they belong to the vulnerable economically weaker group of society and will face repercussions in the near future too. According to the data analysis of 355 survivors of human trafficking from the state of Andra Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have stated that 60% of the sex workers took loans to deal with the financial crisis of their families, during the Covid. The study also revealed that 30% of the families were penniless during the lockdown. The range of loans varied between 5,000- 5,50,000 during the second wave.
Trapped in clumsy and mucky rooms, the sex workers were constricted to stay indoors. Yet, the study shows that 82% of the sex workers were a victim of physical violence, 55% of the assault was done by the clients itself. World Health Organisation had conducted the research study which showed that 70% of the sex workers were badly hit by the police and 80% of them were caught and put behind the bars without any evidence.
No one had provided a helping hand to the destitute sex workers. Basic amenities like daily food, electricity were also missing. One of the sex workers from Mumbai's Kamathipura had expressed her grief by saying," We ask money to feed our children. We don't have any money to even buy vegetables." She further added that she has to sell tea for her daily expenses.
Another sex worker from the same area commented," It is often shown in television that the government is funding the poor but here we aren't receiving a single penny." Moreover, problems are no less, the landlords are after them for the rent every month.
The aching pain which the sex workers undergo is miserable.
Negligence at its Peak!
The Draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill,2021 was finally passed by the central government after two years of processing. In July 2021 the government expected the affected groups to share their views and opinions within two weeks. It is a 38- page Draft bill that includes the complex documents that try to cover the criminal justice and social support to the victims and the sex workers. The Bill was uploaded on June 30 and was given time till July 14th. Additionally, the bill was only drafted in the English language.
After so much lobbying over the years, the Maharashtra Government recognized sex work as work and they added them to a special category. This was only exercised in Maharashtra state. The government is also providing Rs.5000 per month to sex workers. Additional Rs. 2500 will be given for the education funding. More than 30,901 women and 6,451 children will benefit from this scheme. The Maharashtra Government became the first state to provide aid to sex workers. On the other hand, Kolkata and Allahabad also have the highest number of sex workers in India. But, no constructive steps have been taken for their welfare.
Statistics of major states - Data that was presented in court by Senior Advocate, Anand Grover
The metamorphosis from being a sex worker to a skilled worker
Women who were forced into prostitution are now seeking alternative employment. The women residing in the Bhiwandi area are learning small skills like tailoring and making incense sticks for their livelihood. NGO Shree Sai Seva Sanstha is helping these sex workers to find alternative employment. They are also training these workers under skill-based programs so that they can have a respectable stand in society. Apart from tailoring, many of them took a keen interest in dance, education, social work, preparing papads, and packing agarbatti. They have trained them accordingly. Most of them are from Bangladesh and Nepal countries who have been migrated here for work and are now trapped in this business.
Slowly but surely, darkness is being swept away, bringing with it a glimpse of hope. As a society, let us be tolerant and accept sex workers.
Image: stomp.straitstimes,Salom, Conversation
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