Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Opinion

Sex Workers Of Kamathipura: Nowhere To Go, Nowhere To Live

Multiple factors including the law have made it impossible to collectivise the women in the locality

Sex Workers Of Kamathipura: Nowhere To Go, Nowhere To Live
Nowhere to Go, Nowhere to Live Photographs: Dinesh Parab

Kamathipura is suddenly in the limelight because of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, an attempt to depict sex workers living here in the 1960s. However, the red-light district today is no longer home to sex workers. The women and children were forcibly driven out over two decades due to a combination of factors ranging from abolitionists under the guise of anti-trafficking measures to local non sex work residents who want to ‘cleanse’ the area of the stigma associated to its generations of sex work.

In 2018, the Maharashtra government announced that the 39 acres comprising Kamathipura must be revamped. The buildings are more than 100 years old and crumbling, putting residents at risk. The HIV epidemic also discredited sex workers who got labelled as vectors of the spread of the disease. Despite many efforts by the state, NGOs and the sex workers to fight HIV, the latter could not shake off the perception that they did not use condoms and were therefore responsible for spreading HIV. Also, anti-trafficking efforts such as sealing brothels and targeted intervention programmes to end HIV among the sex workers had failed.

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