Kolkata’s Sonagachi area — said to be the country’s biggest red-light area — unusually lacks its familiar buzz.
Just like other markets in the country, sex workers in the area are losing customers due to coronavirus outbreak.
The area has seen a 50 per cent decline in customers’ footfall in last three-four days – a period when the number of Covid-19 cases increased in the country.
According to Smarajit Jana, chief adviser and founder of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (a sex workers’ organisation), sex workers are apprehensive to seek out clients under the present circumstances.
“The footfall has reduced drastically. About 12,000 customers visit Sonagachi daily, and there has been a 50 per cent drop in the footfall in the last three-four days. As a result, sex workers are losing a lot of money. Some are also apprehensive to seek out clients,” Jana told The Indian Express.
The area houses 7,000 sex workers and another couple of thousands who frequent it for clients but do not stay there.
Another member of the committee said many have chosen to remain indoors, as they do not want to take chances.
Sharing her plight, a sex worker in Sonagachi, said she was at her wit’s end trying to figure out how to manage her expenses.
“It will take a toll on our lives. If the situation continues to be like this, I may not be able to send money home,” she stated.
Another worker echoed her.
“We are facing a challenging situation… Customers have stopped coming because of the coronavirus threat. Earlier, we used to have at least four customers a day; now, it’s almost down to zero,” she said.
Jana said the committee had started awareness programmes to prepare workers to overcome the health crisis. “Our health educators are visiting such workers and asking them not to allow clients who have a cough and fever. Identification of such clients is important. They have been also asked not to panic but to take proper precaution to prevent contracting the virus,” he said.
According to him, sex workers in other red-light area of Kolkata and in the districts such as Sheoraphuli, Domjur, Uluberia, Kalna, Shantipur and Dinhata were also witnessing a sharp decline in the number of clients.
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