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Photograph: Handout. Most of their clients earn daily wages and, as millions of people have become unemployed, this clientele has disappeared overnight. In cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, brothels are located in jam-packed red light areas where social distancing is impossible.

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From their earnings, they pay rent, utility bills, and buy food and medicines, as well as pay for education and care for dependents. With no government support, the onus to help the marginalised has fallen on the voluntary sector. This is an ideal time for the government to intervene, and tackle trafficking and forced prostitution, says Gupta.


Exclusion from government Covid relief has left many reliant on private food donations, as fears raised over protection from transmission after lockdown. In India sex work is not illegal, but several supporting activities are; maintaining brothels and soliciting customers are criminal offences.


This kind of distress call is common and similar calls are coming from all areas of the country, she says. The government has announced relief schemes for the poor, but women working in the sex industry are outside their ambit. Wed 29 Apr Divided Delhi under lockdown: 'If coronavirus doesn't kill me, hunger will'.

Reshmi Chakraborty and Hema Ramaprasad. Hygiene is a challenge, with limited access to running water and as many as 20 people sharing one bathroom.

‘they are starving’: women in india’s sex industry struggle for survival

They live in tiny, windowless rooms with no fresh air. The question I want to ask is: where is the food from the government reserves?

Social workers say financial distress has increased instances of domestic violence and conflict. Then there is the commission for brothel keepers and pimps.

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Urmi Basu, the founder of New Light in Kolkata, which works with children of sex workers, worries about the long-term situation. Most sex workers lack bank s and invest savings in small gold ornaments to pawn during tough times.

As non-essential economic activity has ground to a halt, the lockdown has hit millions of people working in the informal sector.


Why is that not being distributed? Sevekari says her organisation plans to lobby the government along with NNSW to provide relief packages.


Inequality and development. The National Commission for Women and the ministry of women and child development were not available for comment. The packages contain rice, flour, pulses, spices, tea, milk powder, onions and potatoes, just enough to feed a family of four for two weeks, as well as hygiene products.

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. R asheeda Bibi has five rupees to her name.


Gupta has launched a campaign called One Million Meals while other NGOs are exploring alternate employment schemes, but women working in the sex industry like Deshmukh and Bibi remain sceptical given the deep-rooted prejudices against them.

According to a survey by UNAidsin India hadsex workers, though the true is likely to be much higher.


As the uncertainty — and fear of the pandemic — grows, social workers anticipate a sharp spike in depression, anxiety, and perhaps, suicide. How does one negotiate safety in this situation?

Amid nationwide lockdown, sex-workers in kolkata face massive financial crisis

It is now a month since India went into total lockdown on 26 March to contain the spread of Covid She has no money left for food, or sanitary towels for herself and her daughters, let alone for fixing the roof. The government should think of an exit strategy that includes transitional housing, bank loans and alternate employment. The women also risk getting trapped in an endless debt cycle with private money lenders. As a thunderstorm rages through the city, Bibi worries about the leaky roof of her small room.

But those working in or trafficked into the sex industry — many of whom lack government-approved documentation to access public distribution systems and relief schemes — are not included.


New Light, Basu says, has reached more than 1, families in Kolkata alone. Global development is supported by. Kiran Ramchandra Deshmukh, of Sangli, Maharashtra, says marginalisation of sex workers has rendered them invisible. Priti Patkarfounder of Preranaan anti-trafficking charity in Mumbai, believes this puts children at risk.

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For these women, the lockdown has meant the loss of their entire ecosystem — rickshaw drivers, corner stores, and street carts. Reuse this content. Social workers must contend not just with the logistics of reaching far-flung areas, but the risk of infection. According to Gupta, Apne Aap has distributedrelief parcels in Delhi, Bihar, and Kolkata with private donations.


Brothels rarely have kitchens and women buy food from vendors.