The News Scroll 27 March 2020  Last Updated at 7:47 pm | Source: PTI

Sex workers face uncertain future in COVID-19 time

Sex workers face uncertain future in COVID-19 time
Kolkata, Mar 27 (PTI) More than one lakh sex workers of Sonagachi in north Kolkata, Asia''s largest red light area, are now staring at an uncertain future and possible starvation as the COVID-19 outbreak has thrown them out of business.

The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, an umbrella organisation of the state''s sex workers having over 1,30,000 registered members, is in talks with the government seeking unorganised sector workers tag for them so that they can get free ration that the state has offered to the sector.

A senior minister said the state government is mulling to extend the benefits of free ration to the sex workers.

"For the last five days, we have been getting frantic calls from various parts of the state. Sex workers have been asking us to do something to save them from possible starvation. Most of the sex workers dont have money to buy food as they are completely out of business for the last 20-21 days since the scare over coronavirus started," said Mahasweta Mukherjee, an office-bearer of Durbar.

It is sad to see that sex workers of Sonagachi who played a key role in the fight against AIDS are now facing such a grim situation during this pandemic, said Mukherjee.

The Sonagachi Research and Training Institute (SRTI), an NGO, said Durbar has prepared a three-pronged strategy to help the sex workers.

"One, we requested Women and Social Welfare Minister Shashi Panja to ensure that the benefits provided by the state government to the unorganised sector are extended to sex workers. Secondly, we are in talks with landlords to waive the rent for this month. Thirdly, we are writing to various noted personalities and NGOs seeking help," SRTI managing director Samarjit Jana told PTI.

More than 30,000 sex workers of Sonagachi work from rented houses, where the rent varies from Rs 5000 to Rs 60000 per month.

"We have convinced some landlords not to collect rent for a month. But this can''t continue for long. This could be only a temporary arrangement. We are not opposing the lockdown but right now the main problem is arranging relief as we can''t move out of our homes," Jana said.

Mukherjee said the problem sex workers faced during demonetisation in 2016 is nothing in comparison to the one they are facing now.

When contacted, minister Panja said the state government is taking steps to help sex workers across the state.

Another senior minister said steps are on to extend all benefits that are being given to the unorganised sector people to sex workers. PTI PNT NN NN

Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI
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