Sex Workers in Sonagachi Reeling Under Debt Bondage : Study Report Says

News Desk, News Nation 360 : A survey conducted by Anti Human Trafficking Organisation, an NGO that fights against the evil of trafficking and violation of human rights, reveals that 89% sex workers in Sonagachi have fallen into debt bondage during the pandemic. Since March, these women have been out of business with no source of income. As the lockdown is easing out across the country, Songachi in Kolkata (Asia’s largest red-light area) has resumed operations. Sex workers are starting work out of desperation, risking their health and probably their lives. Over 93% of sex workers admitted that they fear for their lives but have no other means of survival and have to somehow earn money to pay back the surmounting debt. Even before the pandemic struck, 90% of the women had taken loans as depending solely on sex work did not yield them sufficient income to sustain themselves and their children. The uncertainty of the future continues to haunt them. Sonagachi in Kolkata has an estimated 7,000 sex workers operating from the dingy, congested multi-storey brothels in the locality. The place has been a centre of human trafficking for sexual exploitation and crimes of sexual violence. Some of the victims were also forced into prostitution when they were still a minor. Tapan Saha, National Youth President of Anti Human Trafficking Organisation said that piled up in huge debts, the sex workers have nowhere to go. Even though the lockdown is now lifted, the women cannot carry on work due to the fear of the contagion. Now is the time for the state government to intervene and help them carve an alternative plan. West Bengal which has progressive schemes such as Muktir Alo, failed to support this marginalized section of the society. The scheme is supposed to support the rehabilitation of sex workers, but unfortunately, it failed to deliver. There have been only 75 beneficiaries so far since its inception in 2015. The lack of an all-round approach for rehabilitation, outdated training methods of Muktir Alo are the reasons for its failure. The dynamics of a red-light area do not allow a majority of sex workers to have their own identity. Hence, with no official proof or documents, it is difficult for them to obtain a credit loan from formal institutions as it involves paperwork and background clearance, states the study.

Report : Anustup Kundu

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