When we think about the ‘people of this country,’ we think about people from the rural area, migrant workers. After that, on rare occasions, we also think about people from the SC/ST community. Please note, I have used the word “think” and not “care”. Had we really cared, we would not have witnessed this exodus, suffering, and deaths of crores of people, especially the migrant workers.
But, do we ever think about sex workers?!
I feel sad to say this, but apart from 5-10% of people, the rest of the country stigmatises them in one way or the other. We all know, what people think about them, and what they expect from them. First of all, they don’t even consider them human beings. But, just once, before stigmatising then, read their stories. The stories of sex workers will shatter your heart to the core.
I hope, everyone is aware of the movie Ek Villain. There was a song in the movie called Awari. I think everyone in this country should try to understand each and every line of that song. Then only they will be able to realise what sex workers go through. I personally, was touched by these lines:
“Duniya Chhoona Chaahe Mujhko Yun (The world wants to touch me)
Jaise Unki Saari Ki Saari Main (as if I am all theirs..)
Duniya Dekhe Roop Mera (The world looks at my beauty)
Koi Na Jaane Bechari Main” ((but) no one knows how wretched I am..)
“Koi Shaam Bulaaye (Someone calls me for the evenings,)
Koi Daam Lagaaye (Someone sets a price for me..)
Main Bhi Upar Se Hansti (I, too, smile at the surface,)
Par Andar Se Haaye..” (but inside, alas, (I am so sad))
Their situation is horrifying, not only in this country but in every country across the globe. And, I am not talking about those who have chosen the profession absolutely voluntarily and are really happy with it, they make exceptional cases. I am talking about those sex workers who were forced to enter the profession, either by a person or by their condition like poverty, orphanage, and more.
Now think, during an extraordinary time like this, when the whole world, literally, is on a ‘pause mode’; where there is a scarcity of resources, where even influential people are finding it hard to gather necessities, what must be happening to the sex workers, who are not only poor but are also a stigmatised by the everyone (Be it the society, authorities, professionals, other poor people and even the government). They do not have anyone’s support.
Because of the lockdown, obviously the clients are not visiting them. Have you ever imagined, how are they sustaining themselves without any source of income? I know, most of the people will say, source of income has been cut off for a lot of people. But, those people can at least say it in front of the camera and to the Government. Most importantly, society will also believe what they are saying.
But, the sex workers will not seek help from the authorities because most kinds of sex work are prohibited under the law. So, whenever they go to seek help, they are, first of all, harassed (mostly by the authorities) and are later charged under vague provisions of different laws. Basically, they can come to seek rehabilitation but the vague legal provisions and the approach of society and of the authorities towards them does not allow the sex workers to come forward.
Even if they come forward, society will stigmatise them, no one will give them a job and what not! So, they might just accept it as their fate and remain silent.
When our society cannot stop itself from judging a girl when she gets in a relationship, how will they stop themselves from judging the sex workers?
During the lockdown, how you ever wondered how many NGOs are working for them? You may find few for major red light areas like Kamathipura, Sonagachi, and others. But what about the ‘not-so-popular red light areas’? Who goes there? The government? I don’t think so. When it is getting difficult to provide relief to even the “mainstream” population, how will they manage to reach the sex workers who are a part of the “underground population?”
Various NGOs like Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), Sangama, Jimme Foundation, Kranti are doing a great job to help them. Apart from that, various other organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also actually did a great job in providing them relief.
But, unless and until we change our mindset and the government changes its approach in dealing with this issue, they will continue to lead a gloomy life. The current approach is definitely not working and is making their life worse. So, we need a better plan.
Now, if, god forbid, a sex worker is tested positive. Imagine the stigma they will face inside the quarantine centres or in the hospitals?
And, we should not forget that it is not just about the lockdown. It is a fight for the greater picture. Problems relating to lockdown is just one of the various other problems they face. There are more and their problem is like an iceberg! Whatever appears outside is just a small part of a very big problem.
Everything needs to change!