Responding to a survey on alternative livelihoods for sex workers, NGOs & politicians join hands to fight for the cause - Songoti

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Responding to a survey on alternative livelihoods for sex workers, NGOs & politicians join hands to fight for the cause

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 After the survey on alternative livelihoods for sex workers by Kolkata’s Anti Human Trafficking Organisation revealing that 89% sex workers in Sonagachi have fallen into a debt bondage during the pandemic received massive media attention, several NGOs and politicians have responded, extending support.


As sex workers are left with no source of income after prostitution came to a halt due to the pandemic, they stated that they are willing to leave the trade and explore alternative livelihood plans. acGiven the reduced projection of customer visits in the coming months, resuming sex work does not seem to be a bright option to improve the economic conditions of the sex workers

 

Earlier, Minister of State for Women and Child Development Sashi Panja commented saying that she is not aware of the on-ground facts and if sex workers apply for help, she would definitely work on it. Reading this comment in newspapers, BJP State Vice President Raju Banerjee voiced his opinion in this matter. “Why should the sex workers apply seeking help? It is the government’s duty to help the marginalised sections of the society in times of crisis. Their issues are all over the newspapers and internet,” he said. Shedding light on state of schemes like Muktir Alo that was incepted to help trafficked victims and sex workers opt out of the trade, he said that majority of the beneficiaries don't even know about such schemes but funds continue to be spent and allocated every year. “The government must look into spreading awareness and educating people on using such schemes,” he added.

 

On the other hand, Piyali Roy Pal, a politician from the Forward Block, shared her first-hand experience of witnessing the plight of sex workers. “I was distributing masks in Ward 18 at Sonagachi during the lockdown. I saw sex workers’ children roaming on the streets. These children were hungry when I met them and so were their mothers. We distributed khichuri and rice and pulses but we have not seen the current government do anything,” she said. “This area comes under Panja’s constituency.  Why isn’t anyone assigned to monitor and act upon the affairs of the area? Moreover, why are sex workers having to write to seek help?” Pal added that irrespective of being a candidate from the Shyampukur assembly, she would appeal to her party, voicing to help these women.

 

Voices from civil society

 

Nihar Ranjan Raptan, Founder and Secretary of Goranbose, Gram Bikash Kendra responded saying, “The society needs to be respectful and accept survivors of any form of violence and exploitations. The survivors of sexual violence and human rrafficking are ostracized and stigmatized, without any support system to such an extent that they are forced to become a sex worker. Alternative livelihood plans for these women would help them start afresh and we will fight this battle till we win,”

 

Meanwhile, Aloka Mitra, chairperson of Women’s Interlink Foundation, agreed on the need for developing practical initiatives of alternative livelihoods for sex workers. “This survey and the results are in line with the past survey done by us and other NGOs. However, However, the pandemic has increased the number of sex workers wanting to opt out of the trade. Now around 98% want to leave due to the fear of Covid – 19 viruses. Our  surveys showed a lesser percentage for obvious reasons. It is our duty to develop such practical initiatives and such projects should be supported by the Department of Women and Children Welfare as that is the only solution to help the girls and women in red-light areas find an alternative livelihood.” Mitra said.

 

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