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A Story To Be Told: Tanu Di, A Commercial Sex Worker

Posted on June 15, 2011 in Society

By Anonna Dutt:

Being married and having a one-year-old child, it could be the happiest time in the life of a women. It was not so in Tanu Di’s (name changed) case. She was totally dependent on her husband for her and her child’s sustenance. The reason for this was that she had never been educated, either due to the lack of funds or just because her family thought it was not important for a girl to get educated. Here, this is not an issue about how there are so many people in India who do not get their right to education; it is about how a poor female, to earn daily bread for herself and her family, had to get into sex trade.

She stood alone on the street with the little child in her hands and suddenly she did not know what to do. Her husband had thrown her out of their house (i.e. a tin shed; if you can call that a house, then so be it). In desperation, she went to her parent’s place. She also had two brothers who lived with her parents–that is, two younger brothers.

After a few days of her arrival, her parents had to go to Bangladesh for some work. They were gone for two weeks when she realised that there was no money left and the shopkeeper would not lend them anymore. She had the responsibility of a one-year-old and two younger brothers and the thought about her parents was killing her. She did not know what had happened to them; they were supposed to return in a few days.

Meanwhile, she had to fill four empty stomachs and decided to work as a construction worker. She went to a construction site and started working for a meagre wage of Rs. 150/- for an entire day’s work. But this was not all, her miseries knew no end. During lunch break, the male workers wanted to have sex with her. She valued her integrity and gave a ‘No’ for an answer. After this incident, she was unable to find work at all. They would not hire her because she practised her right to say no!

This is the sorry state in which most poor women in India find themselves. But this was not the end. She had to do something for her baby and her brothers. She was denied the right to choose and in the face of poverty, she said ‘Yes’. One day, a fortnight after she was unable to find a job, she told her friend that she would do whatever it takes to earn money. Her baby was really hungry and she thought – who was she saving up herself for? A husband who had ditched her? She plunged into sex work.

In the evening her friend brought the first customer and even lent her a room. But her friend, too, had to earn a living and they decided to split the money that she gets in half. The customer had offered 500 rupees. Thinking about her little daughter, she entered the room, only to find out that she was not yet prepared for what she was doing. She began to cry as the guy came nearer. Realising that she was afraid the customer asked whether it was her first time. When she said yes, he asked why she was doing it and the answer that she gave him moved him so much that he gave her an extra thousand and did not even touch her. He asked her to come again in a week. When she did he again gave her some money. This went on for some time.

After three months her parents came back. She wanted to quit, but when she heard people talking behind her back, she could bear it no more. She just wished that her parents would have come back earlier. Since she could not turn back the time, she took her daughter and went to live permanently in a red light area in Kolkata. This time when she met her customer, she offered herself willingly. This was the beginning of her profession.

Now after 10 years, people call her names and insult her in many ways because they think it is a scandalous profession. According to her it is just another kind of work that gives her a livelihood. And the one thing that keeps her going is the fact that her first customer still returns back to her and he is her Babu (Permanent Partner) and because of his help now her daughter is studying in a good school.

The story is that of a real commercial sex worker. Tanu di (named changed) is one of those millions of sex workers who struggle to find a space for themselves in the societal norms that denounce them because of their profession. Youth Ki Awaaz has taken a stand to present voices of these unheard sex workers. Do drop in your views below.