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Sex workers of Sonagachi demand basic labour rights

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By Arnab Mitra

OG14019_DURBAR_POSITIVE CHANGES_SONAGACHHI_14JULY2015_M SAMANTAKolkata: Central Government’s proposal to legalize prostitution resulted in a controversy in the state. People can be seen debating on whether or not legalizing prostitution will lead to an imbalance in the society.

The sex workers living in one of the largest red light areas of India, Sonagachi disagree with the common perception. They believe that if the government withdraws the ITPA (Illegal Trafficking Prevention Act) and legalizes prostitution, then it will save thousands of sex workers from the harassment of police and local pimps. OH13382_SEX WORKERS_DURBAR_13 AUG 15_M SAMANTA

To know the real reason behind their demand of legalizing prostitution, NewsGram talked to some members of Durbar. They answered unanimously that they are labourers and they are working to sustain themselves, and this is reason enough for the government to either withdraw or amend the ITPA act.

OG14001_DURBAR_POSITIVE CHANGES_SONAGACHHI_14JULY2015_M SAMANTAArnab Mitra: The government is planning to legalize prostitution. How will it benefit you if it is implemented?

Sephali Roy: We have five basic demands:

a. Basic Labour Righta.

b. Right to Governmental Health Scheme.

c. Pension to all sex workers.

d. Withdraw or amend the ITPA act.

e. Our children should have the right to the property of their mother, and the identity of their mother should be granted as their identity.

These necessary demands can only be fulfilled if the government legalizes prostitution.OG14006_DURBAR_POSITIVE CHANGES_SONAGACHHI_14JULY2015_M SAMANTA

Arnab Mitra: Do you think that the Government needs to withdraw the ITPA act immediately?

Purnima Chatterjee: At present, there is hardly any instance of trafficking in this red light area. So we are not doing any illegal business, and whatever we do is only to meet our basic needs. It is our request to the government to stop seeing us as criminals. We are humans too.

Arnab Mitra: Do you think that rape and molestation will be curbed if the government legalizes prostitution?OH13367_SEX WORKERS_13 AUG 15_M SAMANTA

Chaya De: The instances of rapes only highlight the mental sickness of the society. It was there in the past and will be in the future. Nothing can curb the demons of the society.

Arnab Mitra: What steps have you taken from Durbar’s side to raise this issue?

Gita Das: In 2006, we first started our movement to demand basic labour rights. Now MPs from different parties have come forward to support our cause and we are hopeful that the Modi government will implement the act to legalize prostitution as soon as possible. We have high hopes with the ruling government as the power rests with them for now.OH13377_SEX WORKERS_13 AUG 15_M SAMANTA

OH13385_SEX WORKERS_DURBAR_13 AUG 15_M SAMANTA

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Closing Red light areas Post Lockdown can reduce COVID cases in India: Research

Continued closure of Indian red-light areas after lockdown can help reduce the curve of COVID-19 cases

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COVID
COVID cases can be kept on low by closing red light areas after lockdown. Pixabay

BY PUJA GUPTA

Continuing the closure of red-light areas in India even after the lifting of the lockdown on May 17 can reduce the number of COVID cases by 72 per cent in a period of 45-days, and delay the peak of cases by 17 days, says a finding by academicians from Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

The study called ‘Modelling the Effect of Continued Closure of Red-Light Areas on COVID Transmission in India’ finds that Indians are at a much lower risk of getting COVID-19 if red light areas are kept closed after the lockdown until an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. This intervention can help the Indian government significantly reduce the risk of citizens getting COVID-19.

The delay in the peak will provide the government more time and opportunities to plan and execute measures to protect public health and economy, as India moves in Lockdown 4.0. The study also states that there could be a 63 per cent reduction in the number of deaths in the first 60 days after the lockdown ends if red-light areas are kept closed.

In India, there are close to 6,37,500 sex workers as per the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) and over 5 lakh customers visit the red-light areas on a daily basis. The study shows that if the red-light areas start operating, the disease will spread extremely quickly and infect a very high percentage of sex workers and customers. The high transmission rate is because social distancing is not possible during the act of sex. The infected customers could spread the disease to lakhs of other citizens.

covid
COVID cases might reduce by 72% if red light areas are locked post lockdown lifts. Pixabay

Therefore, these red-light areas have a combination of factors that can create a major hotspot. This hotspot can create a large percentage of the disease spread after lockdown ends. To protect citizens against this, the study recommends keeping red light areas closed indefinitely, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report highlights the impact of red-light areas across India and in five Indian cities which are currently in the red-zone and account for some of the largest red-light areas in the country with large numbers of sex workers.

As per the study, if red-light areas are kept closed following the lifting of lockdown, there can be a delay in the peak of COVID-19 cases by:

Up to 12 days in Mumbai

Up to 17 days in New Delhi,

Up to 29 days in Pune,

Up to 30 days in Nagpur,

Up to 36 days in Kolkata

red light area
Indian red light areas are on high risk of COVID. PC: EconomicTimes

Further, it can reduce COVID-19 cases in a 45-day period by:

21 per cent in Mumbai,

27 per cent in Pune,

31 per cent in New Delhi,

56 per cent in Nagpur,

66 per cent in Kolkata

The report shows that closure of red-light areas can significantly reduce deaths by 63 per cent in India, 28 per cent in Mumbai, 38 per cent in New Delhi, 43 per cent in Pune, 61 per cent in Nagpur and 66 per cent in Kolkata in the first 60 days. These numbers are based on the prevalent reproduction number of 2.0. The numbers could vary depending on the Reproduction number, which is constantly changing with time in different locations.

Commenting on the report, co-author, Dr. Jefferey Townsend, Professor of Biostatistics, Yale School of Medicine said: “At the release of lockdown, there is a very high potential for the increase in the cases, and hence, a modulated approach is warranted. The actual scenario will depend on behaviour of individuals and our model does not predict how individuals will behave. The purpose of our modelling exercises in not to predict what will happen in the future, but to understand the effect of the intervention on the future. Our study findings show that there is a strong effect of the red-light area closures, especially immediately following the lockdown.”

Other countries have also implemented similar interventions. In Australia, brothels and strip clubs are the only businesses that are delineated as indefinitely closed in the country’s reopening plan. Germany and the Netherlands have also closed their brothels to protect citizens from COVID-19. Japan did not close down red light areas in-time and saw an “explosion” in cases because of a red light area that left local hospitals “overwhelmed”.

Speaking about the COVID-19 situation in India, co-author of the report, Dr Sudhakar Nuti, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School said: “The Indian government’s early measures to prevent the high growth in COVID-19 cases have flattened the curve in the country. The continued closure of red-light areas would build on the successes achieved by the government in lockdown. India gained around 40 days of delay in the peak through a lockdown and can gain another 17 days of delay by keeping these places closed. Any effort in delaying the peak reduces the amount of stress on the medical system and potentially translates into lives saved. Preventing the potential surge in cases by red light areas reopening will protect gains made by the lockdown.”

Also Read: Some Interesting Facts About The Language Of Gods: Sanskrit

The report has been co-authored by Prof. Jeffery Townsend, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, Prof. Alison Galvani, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Modelling & Analysis, Yale University, and Dr. Sudhakar Nuti, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. (IANS)

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8 Largest Red Light Areas In India Where Only Prostitution Is Sustainability

According to a report, there is almost 10 million sex worker in India.

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The place Sonagachi holds the title of Asia’s largest red light area which is located in Kolkata. Wikimedia Commons
The place Sonagachi holds the title of Asia’s largest red light area which is located in Kolkata. Wikimedia Commons

The act of prostitution is going on since ages and it’s still a surviving occupation for many. For lots of girls, it’s a harsh reality but there is very little that they can do about it. Many of the girls are forced into prostitution and some have to choose it because they have no other place to go. Although, prostitution is illegal in India but it is certainly prevalent in our society.

The Land of Kama Sutra
Due to India’s legacy in sex and prostitution, there are some of the largest and infamous red light areas where prostitution is a way of living. Such a place automatically becomes a hot spot for many other criminal activities too. According to a report, there is almost 10 million sex worker in India. The prime clientele of prostitutes includes migrant workers or people who are staying away from their home.

The red light areas in India are the only means of keeping the body and soul together for many of the sex workers. Wikimedia Commons
The red light areas in India are the only means of keeping the body and soul together for many of the sex workers. Wikimedia Commons

There are many cases where a girl turns into prostitution just for the sake of raising some money for their respective families. Some girls are lured into good jobs in big cities and then they are been sold off to pimps and brokers at different brothels. The news of abduction of girls are very common in India and then no one knows whereabouts of them. In very few cases, the police are able to locate the victim.

Even in some cases, parents sell their babies to earn some quick bucks for a very paltry sum. The red light areas in India are the only means of keeping the body and soul together for many of the sex workers.

Take a look at the list of such red light areas situated in India:

Sonagachi, Kolkata
The place Sonagachi holds the title of Asia’s largest red light area which is located in Kolkata. Sonagachi is a mysterious place in itself. As per a survey, this place is home to almost 11,000 sex workers. The harsh reality of Sonagachi red light area is very hard to swallow. The Oscar-winning documentary, Born into Brothels, has brought out the very reality of this place.

Kamathipura, Mumbai
Kamathipura stands second, only after Sonagachi in terms of the number of sex workers working at a place. It is also the oldest red light area of Mumbai. The dilapidated condition of this place will send shivers to anyone visiting here for the very first. The place also houses a beedi factory in its surrounding been owned by women. The place is quite famous due to its visitors like Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim.

There the word Kamathis means workers and hence the place got its first name. Wikimedia Commons
There the word Kamathis means workers and hence the place got its first name. Wikimedia Commons

Kamthipura is also known by the name of Grant Road’s Red light Area. But initially, Kamthipura was known as Lal Bazaar because of its workers. There the word Kamathis means workers and hence the place got its first name. The number of sex workers has reduced to only a few thousand as compared to when it was started.

Budhwar Peth, Pune
Budhwar Peth shortly follows the Sonagachi and Kamathipura in the prostitution business. There are expected five thousand of sex workers working in the shabby lanes of Budhwar Peth.Other than prostitution, the place is also known for being a hub for electronic goods and books.

The shady lights of this red light area make it more difficult to survive and lack of law enforcement agencies adds more agony to it.

G.B. Road, Delhi
Almost every person who has ever visited Delhi must have come across the name of G.B. Road. The place is Delhi’s largest red light area and is quite famous for the hundreds of brothels along the streets.

The place also houses many vehicle parts, wholesale dealers. So, anyone who knows about this place is not necessarily related to prostitution.

Chaturbhujsthan, Muzaffarpur
Chaturbhujsthan is a red light area in Muzaffarpur and interestingly, this place is located right next to an old temple. People believe that this setup has been in continuation since ages and thus it makes sense as to why prostitution is still going strong.

The shady lights of the red light areas make it more difficult to survive and lack of law enforcement agencies adds more agony to it. Wikimedia Commons
The shady lights of the red light areas make it more difficult to survive and lack of law enforcement agencies adds more agony to it. Wikimedia Commons

Itwari, Nagpur
Itwari is a quite popular place among the sex workers and the criminals in Nagpur. In most of the red light areas, criminal activities and prostitution go side by side and this place is no different. The place is also known by the name Ganga Jamuna.

Shivdaspur, Varanasi
This red light area is intact since ancient times and this place is more like a village rather than a locality. But in the past couple of years, this place is seen losing its sheen due to lack of the number of sex workers. The village is home to many cheap brothels been run by the locals.

Baina, Goa
Goa being a holiday destination is supposed to cater the prostitution business and getting customers over here is not that difficult. Baina is a well-known red light area in Goa. Here, pimps bring the customer from bus stands, railway stations and markets, after that the deal is been made.

Although in 2004, the government raided all the properties of Baina beach and tried to root out the prostitution business but still it’s prevalent.

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Myanmar Woman May Khine Oo Shares Her Story of Human Trafficking to Prevent other Women from falling into the same trap

The United Nations has described Myanmar as a source country for human trafficking

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Human trafficking in Myanmar
May Khine Oo, 30, stands in front of her family's grocery store in Mon state, Myanmar, July 20, 2017. VOA
  • May Khine Oo was trafficked to China, where she was forced to get married twice
  • She wishes to share her story of human trafficking in a hope to protect other women
  • The International Rescue Committee charity gives her a small daily stipend for living expenses, and a village clinic is providing free checkups for her pregnancy.

Myanmar, August 24, 2017: The nightmare for May Khine Oo started on a trip home to Myanmar but lasted almost 13 years.

After visiting her grandmother in southern Mon state in the country’s southeast, May Khine Oo, 17 at the time, boarded a train for the state capital, Mawlamyine, to return to her parents in Mudon township.

On the train she met a couple who offered her a job, which she refused. She did, however, accept their offer of water, and next thing she knew she had fallen asleep and missed her stop, with no money to get back.

The couple suggested they could find her work to raise the funds needed to pay for a new ticket.

“I decided to accept their job for travel expenses to return home,” May Khine Oo told Myanmar Now, an independent website supported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that she now thinks the water had been drugged.

The couple took her to a local restaurant where she worked for three months, but instead of taking her back to her parents as promised, they then took her to a broker and she was sent to China.

May Khine Oo said over the next 13 years she was forced to marry twice. She had two children with her first husband and was pregnant from her second marriage when she fled after contacting a student group through the Chinese messaging service WeChat.

“I tried to flee many times, for many years,” she said. “But the foreignness of the communities made it difficult to do so and I was also afraid that my situation would get much worse elsewhere.”

While May Khine Oo’s ordeal is not uncommon, what is unusual is her determination to go public with her story to stop other young girls from falling into the same trap.

Forced to marry

The United Nations has described Myanmar as a source country for human trafficking. Police statistics show that 3,489 victims were rescued from 2006 to 2016, most of whom had been trafficked into marriages.

Also read: Pope Francis: Human trafficking is a Modern Form of Slavery and a True Crime Against Humanity

Prostitution accounted for the second-highest number of cases, followed by forced labor.

Police records show the top destination for trafficking victims from Myanmar is China, although the trade also exists in other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Malaysia, and within Myanmar itself.

Myanmar was upgraded in June in the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report to its Tier 2 watch list, which indicated that the country was making significant efforts to comply with U.S. standards to combat human trafficking.

Human rights groups, however, called the move premature, saying not enough was being done to stop this illegal trade.

Human trafficking story of Myanmar woman
May Khine Oo, 30, is pictured in front of her family’s grocery store in Mon state, Myanmar, July 20, 2017. VOA

“Preventive measures against trafficking in persons must be carried out systematically,” he said. “This crime is also happening in this country. But only serious cases are known to the public.”

Myanmar’s government passed a landmark Anti-Trafficking Law in 2005, which laid out hefty sentences for offenders. Cases that proceed to court are rare but have happened.

Myo Aung, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, said one challenge is providing a strong alternative to the lucrative offers made by brokers.

“Potential victims do not heed education programs about trafficking,” he said. “Instead, they believe the enticements of illegal traffickers. As a result they cannot find help after becoming victims.”

Cautionary tale

On the local level, the fight is often about raising awareness.

Police Major Khin Maung Latt of Yangon’s Pazundaung township recommends a more aggressive approach to the information battle.

He said his officers cooperate with nongovernmental organizations to disseminate pamphlets, using a “door-to-door system.”

“It is more effective than formal educative talks,” he said, adding that residents should inform police if they are approached by brokers. “It is a preventive measure against liars. Prevention is better than the cure.”

Also read: Nepali Woman scales Mt Everest with the message to fight against human trafficking

After her case was reported, May Khine Oo was found by Chinese authorities and handed over to the Myanmar Police Force’s Anti-Trafficking unit in Ruili in China’s Yunnan province.

She moved back to her parents in Mudon, leaving her two children in China, and started to rebuild her life, receiving a grant from the Social Welfare Department to set up a grocery store.

The International Rescue Committee charity gives her a small daily stipend for living expenses, and a village clinic is providing free checkups for her pregnancy.

She has also filed a complaint with the police in the hope that they can find the couple who duped her on the train, and is spreading her own story locally as a cautionary tale.

“I would like to suggest to all parents not to allow their children to travel without close adult family members,” she said. “Using my experience as an example, I tell the girls not to blindly trust others.” (VOA)