West Bengals sex workers remarkable fight against HIV

December 30th, 2007 - 7:46 pm ICT by admin  

By Soma Mitra

Kolkata, Dec 30 (ANI): Sex workers of Sonagchi, the single largest brothel in India, are doing a remarkable work in prevention of HIV infection and human trafficking by organizing camps for sex workers of West Bengal and asking them to fight for their rights.

Under the banner of Durbar Mahila Samannay Committee (DSMC), which organizes seminars, sex workers and others, who are directly or indirectly linked to the movement, discuss two major issues of HIV infection and human trafficking.

West Bengal is the state with highest number of HIV infected patients. The estimated figure is 150 thousand. At least 9000 sex workers including 3000 flying sex workers are considered as the most vulnerable to HIV infection.

Rajeev Shukla, Project Director, West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society said that Bengals open border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, are the biggest challenge for HIV infection. Migrants from these countries carry the virus and as they are not traceable for treatment they further spread the disease.

Activists at DSMC think that the awareness could only be spread through movement.

When Use Condom campaign was launched there was hardly any taker for that. Sex workers were more vocal about violence against them, they said.

Earlier police raids were so frequent that the numbers of clients were very poor. The fear of loosing them, used to stop us to ask for the use of condom. Police used to think sex workers encourage human trafficking which was an absolutely wrong notion, said Bharati Dey, who has been a sex worker for the last 30 years.

To stop human trafficking in sex trade, a self-regulatory board has been established by the sex workers.

The board works as a filter and it checks whether the new girl joining the trade is an adult or a minor. This board also tries to find out if any new girl joining the profession is under any pressure to do so.

This has been very successful way to check human trafficking, police raids have also reduced considerably, said Swapna Gayen, who too is a sex worker in Sonagachi for over two decades.

During the seminars, sex workers also discussed new amendments proposed in the existing laws, which they feel would criminalize sex work.

There have already been protests against the new amendments, which criminalize clients of sex workers. Sex workers feel that such amendments would in return make the entire trade as a crime.

It will criminalize the entire trade. The new amendments will force the trade to go underground, said a legal expert Tripti Tandon. (ANI)

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