”You know my name but not my story.You have heard what i have done but not what i have been through.” – a sex worker Today I am going to share something from my own personal experience that changed my view about sex workers. I had a stereotype thinking and lived in my own world of assumptions. It was when I took a decision that led to this reversal of thinking. I decided to volunteer for an organization that works for sex-workers and this is by far a correct decision of my life. A closer insight into the life of a sex worker brought a drastic change in my views and opinions about them.I hope you will associate with the cause well and change the perception you have about sex workers. And the story………. I spent my summer working in the red light area of Pune where I volunteered with an organization called Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh which assists sex workers and their families. It was registered in early 1998 and is a collective organisation working for the betterment of sex workers and is run by sex workers themselves. My activities for the organization included helping sex workers to get their essential documents (such as their Birth Certificate, Pancard, Aadhar card and Ration Card), accompanying them to hospitals, taking them to the courts, organizing official events and visits, helping the children of sex workers to get admission into schools and colleges,taking care of and teaching their children. Therefore, I interacted with them on daily basis while making regular visits to their workplace and home. All of this provided me with an opportunity to get a glimpse of the lives of sex workers. Since this is an enigma to most of us, I was keen on finding out the truth about this life – and not the televised version of it.The things that i encountered while volunteering with this organization are an eye opener. And the reality……… These women are not in this profession out of their choice but out of necessity. Most of them got involved in this business when they were in their teens and they usually have their first customer by the time they were fifteen. Some of them are being sold by their families to pimps so that they can get some “easy cash” while some have been trafficked from different parts of India and even from different countries (like Nepal and Bangladesh). After they are brought to the brothels, they are conditioned to accept this life and the activities they must do if they are to earn money. Their services are procured by men who mostly belong to the lower class and lower middle class of Indian society. In their life at these area, they satisfy thousands of customers. Sometimes due to unsafe sexual intercourse and other sexual activities these women acquire several sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis and gonorrhea. Many of these women spend their entire lives in the brothel since they are under the (constantly increasing) debt of the brothel keeper which they are unable to repay irrespective of how much they earn. As a society, we are extremely ignorant about the lives of sex workers and oblivious to their conditions and circumstances. Despite all of this, we are very quick to judge them without knowing their part of story. We display a discriminatory attitude (consciously or unconsciously) towards them the minute we find out about what they do for a living – rickshaw drivers refuse to take them as passengers, doctors speak extremely rudely to them, academic institutions are hesitant to give their children admission and lawyers are think twice before taking up a case concerning sex workers. But why is it so? Why should it be like this? Aren’t these women ‘human beings’ ? Don’t they have families, hopes, dreams, ambitions, needs and desires –like the rest of us? ”The society is wearing glasses of percipience that doesn’t let them see the truth. Until the day we wear these hazy glasses; we will have a short sighted view of the reality. Only when we will remove the glasses of perception, the clear actuality will come on to the surface.” The day my volunteer-ship ended I took a pledge that , ‘I will never jump on to conclusions about anything without knowing the truth. I will never consider sex workers anything less than humans. I will always contribute towards the empowerment and upliftment of sex workers in the society.’
About the Author: This article is contributed by Aashna Banerjee, our Intern.