Sex workers demand labour rights on May Day

By IANS, Kolkata : Thousands of sex workers from different parts of West Bengal Tuesday took out a May Day torch rally from the Sonagachi red light area here, demanding social rights and the status of a regular worker.

Over 3,000 sex workers participated in the rally that started from Sonagachi at midnight and ended at College Square in north Kolkata Tuesday.

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Sonagachi is the largest red light district in West Bengal and one of the biggest in Asia with more than 10,000 sex workers living in the same area.

“We organised the torch rally involving all the sex workers of Sonagachi and many other districts with the hope to bring them under one roof of equality. Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), the apex body of sex workers in Bengal, has been fighting for the rights of sex workers since the inception of the organisation in 1995,” Mahasweta Mukherjee, a spokesperson of DMSC, told IANS.

Thousands of sex workers coming from Howrah, Nadia, Burdwan and South 24-Prganas of West Bengal assembled at College Square Monday to voice their demands to be recognised as entertainment workers, she said.

Added Bharati Dey, DMSC programme director: “Keeping in mind the aspect of women empowerment, especially amongst the unorganised section of working women, we arrange this rally every year.

“In the past one decade we have seen a sea change in the minds of common people. At least now they give recognition to the sex workers and treat them as human beings in the society.

“If a normal worker can enjoy all facilities in the modern world, why can’t the sex workers as they also toil hard to earn their livelihood,” she said.

She noted that in India there are almost 10 million sex workers and 50 million people are directly or indirectly associated with the profession.

The DMSC is a group of over 65,000 sex workers based in West Bengal. The organisation has been fighting for the recognition of sex workers and their children.

It also works for the legalisation of prostitution with reforms in laws that curb the human rights of sex workers.

The sex workers who participated in the rally also protested the amendment of section 5(C) of Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) as this would affect their profession in future.