For 45-year-old Nina,being a sex worker is no different from being engaged in any other job. But for the last 20 years,she has not been able to visit her parents as her profession is taboo. She,however,remains the sole earning member of her family.
With over 1 lakh sex workers in West Bengal,around 300 women in the profession protested on Friday against the constant discrimination and criminalisation of sex workers and demanded action from the government.
To carry forward their long battle for recognition and diginity,54 foreign groups with 90 per cent sex workers from countries like Australia,Myanmar,Cambodia,Nepal,Bangladesh,Bhutan,Hong Kong are participating in the five-day international conference organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee,a sex workers organisation in West Bengal.
Sex workers from others states Arunachal Pradesh,Karnataka,Jharkhand,Bihar,Orissa,Maharashtra,Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are also participating. For the next few days,we will be holding deliberations on the rights of sex workers and will try to sensitise the society and make people realise that our work is no different from other jobs, said Mahasweta Mukherjee of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee.
We will also be visiting universities like Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University to participate in the discussions, she added.
For some in Cambodia,the situation is worse than Bengal,as the rehabilitation centres,instead of giving shelter to sex workers,exploit them further. The sex workers,who are picked up by the police and are taken to the centres are often raped and physically tortured.
Connie Chan,a sex worker and activist from Hong Kong,said the humiliation they face requires immediate attention from the respective governments.
According to her,there are almost 2,00,000 sex workers in Hong Kong. Prostitution is illegal in Hong Kong and the society hates such women, Chan said. Most of the sex workers come from China,Phillipines,Vietnam and Thailand.
The police atrocities on them are disheartening and shameful. These girls have the right to lead a healthy normal life and we are here to discuss these issues with the Indian sex workers, she added.