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Caste, Prostitute and COVID-19 a deadly combination for survival ……!!

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COVID-19 pandemic is affecting fiercely to all human being in this world. Even India also affected badly from this pandemic and therefore our Central Government is clueless about how to tackle this situation. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced 20 lakh crore of packages to revive the economy and provide relief to common people. But some Political parties, Economists and intellectuals have different opinion regarding this package because this package in not directly helping to migrant or poor people.

Prostitution in India

There is one more sector which never got recognition or respect in our society and may be the reason government never announces any relief packages for them but it also exists and this sector is one of the most vulnerable in all parameters and they also need some kind of support from state at this vicious pandemic. This industry is called “Prostitution”. It is little difficult to find out exact number of girls/women are engaged in this sector. As per “Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS” states that around 6.6 Lakh prostitutes are engaged in this profession in India (2016).  And there are some other secondary data which states that around 10 Lakh or more than that prostitutes are active in current scenario. Females who are engaged in prostitution are the most vulnerable communities because they are socially not acceptable in our society and people treat them like they are impure. Even when you try to understand about their economic condition they come from poor background and this is the reason these women don’t have negotiation power because middle men control this trade completely. And these girls are force to do this work because middle man have network to bring these girls through human trafficking from early age. Although in India, there is one act which is Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation for commercial purpose. But how effective is this act, is a questionable? In India, prostitution is legal but pimping, running brothel is illegal.

                            

 Caste based prostitution

First time I interacted with women who were engaged in prostitution work at Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh when I was doing my internship in the year 2016-17. At this time I was studying in Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai. It was one of the heart breaking and challenging project of my life because I was not sure about how I will contribute something to impact their life little bit through my proposal writing. But somehow I managed and completed my proposal and submitted to organization where I was placed for my internship. Trust me in first meeting, asking questions to any prostitute is very difficult task because you don’t know about from where you should start so that you can understand their world view.  

Can anyone believe that one’s identity or caste force them to indulge in prostitution? Even I was shocked when I heard that in Bachada community girls are engaged because they born in this community and this is their main source of livelihood through generation. There are many rules which were created by representatives of this community and the most stringent rule is that the first girl child of the family has to indulge in prostitution work and look after the family. This rule is very rigid only because age of the girls play vital role here because after certain age a woman will not get customers. So she needs one girl child at least who can earn through prostitution and feed them. This is a vicious cycle and it is happening from generation to generation in this community. One family can earn the larger amount during puberty period of girl because for this, many customers wait and give handsome amount. The problem with this prostitution work is that after 30-35 years old women started looking unattractive to customers and due to this their earning started going down. However, on the other side those girls who reach up to 12 years and onward started earning good amount and at this time these teenagers fall in trap with easy earning morning. When later on she understood the bitter truth of this industry it becomes too late for them to leave this work. Therefore, they have to continue this work in Bachada community. Even due to social structure of Indian society this Bachada community people are treated like low caste people. And due to this they face discrimination & humiliation from other caste people. Highest number of school dropout happens among students from this community because they are treated badly and have to face discrimination. This Bachada community is settled in Neemach, Mandsaur, Ratlam district of Madhya Pradesh.   

There are some other communities who are also compelled to do prostitution work because their communities’ people are engaged in this profession from generation to generation and it all started due to caste system. Bedia, Devdasi, Sansi & many more communities are the other examples who are compelled to do prostitution work due to their caste identity.     

COVID-19 Pandemic & Prostitution

As I was going through some secondary reports about how this prostitute trade will suffer during this pandemic and I found that mostly truck drivers, migrant labourers and others are the main customers of this trade. COVID-19 is a communicable disease and it can spread from one person to other person rapidly. This disease has created panic among people and forces them to maintain social distancing from each other and taking precautions. Due to this social distancing, Prostitutes are not getting customers and not able to earn money. So it is very difficult time for prostitutes as well to survive. They don’t have any kind of social welfare net because generally they don’t have proper documents to link themselves with government schemes. Some NGOs are coming out to support these women but they have limited resources. As per World Health Organization (WHO), now human being has to live with COVID-19 in their life through out. So it’s a hard fact that for prostitution industry everything will be change from now onward because people will restrain from having sexual pleasure with physical contact. therefore, it is state responsibility to take care of these people as well and this is the right time to provide them alternative livelihood options. It is also true that those who are engaged in this profession will not leave this easily because our system always exploited them and they don’t know anything else expect this work. But still I believe at least government should frame some projects or policies specific for women of this sector so that in future their next generation will come out from this heinous job. Government has to make some concrete policies keeping in mind that this community will take longer time or may be some generation to leave this profession if they get support and respect from government and society continuously. But for now, government must provide some relief packages immediately for their survival.

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