Sex workers Want Recognition among Entertainment Workers

Are sex workers 'entertainment workers'? At the end of a seven-day all-India conference of sex workers, this is what women who refuse to accept old tags are asking.

'For more than a decade we have been striving for our rights as entertainment workers. We work hard to entertain our clients as everyone does. We do it in our own way and at the end of the day we earn our livelihood,' said Mira Malik, a Sonagachi-based sex worker here.

The All India Conference of Entertainment Workers 2007, which kicked off Feb 25, concluded March 3 - the International Sex workers' Day - with the sex workers demanding a specific identification for themselves.

'If any other entertainment worker - like singer, dancer, magician, actor - can get social recognition, why not the sex workers? We also entertain people and we think it's the highest form of pleasure,' Mira said.

The representatives from the sex workers community of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh attended the conference to voice their demands.

There are 70 'red light areas' in West Bengal with 14 in Kolkata alone, and the conference provided sex workers, both male and female, with a common platform while they rubbed shoulders with actors, dancers, singers and others.

'Thousands of participating sex workers - both organised and individuals - from across India met here to press their demands for the same labour rights, social assistance and recognition,' said Smrajit Jana, chief advisor of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) (The Committee for Indomitable Women), an apex body of about 65,000 sex workers that organised the meet.

'On behalf of DMSC we are preparing a list which will include our demands like new labour law and a self regulatory board for the sex workers,' Bharati Dey, the programme director of DMSC, told IANS.

She said the list was being prepared on the basis of the discussions and problems of all sex workers who participated in the conference.

'We have started a signature campaign for setting up a cultural academy in Kolkata. We will give this proposal to the union government and to the ministry of social welfare of the West Bengal government for the betterment of our community,' Bharati said.

DMSC had started off in 1992 with only 12 sex workers and got registered in 1995. It has also expanded outside West Bengal to bring the sex workers under a single forum and help them to fight for their own rights.

It has also ventured into other welfare activities like formation of Usha Multi Purpose Co-operative Society Ltd - the largest co-operative society for the sex workers in Asia with annual transactions worth over Rs.900 million.

Festival of Pleasure, Entertainment in Development, Mehboob Ki Mehendi (Colours of Love), Sexual Rights and Relationship, Entertainment in Revolution, Rang De Basanti (Coloured with Spring) were the various sessions of the meet in which the sex workers gathered in a sprawling park beside Sonagachi in north Kolkata.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: