“YOU ARE A SEX WORKER, HOW CAN YOU BE RAPED?”

December 17th marks the renewment of support to end violence against sex workers worldwide. It is a global movement that brings together allies and advocates from around the world in recognizing the human rights of sex workers. In a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation, it was surveyed that an estimate of around 70% of sex workers in India reported experiencing violence and sexual harassment from society and police.

To understand what sex workers go through when they report incidents of violence, Jaago Re met with a sex worker. Here’s what she had to say.

“I was married when I was quite young, when I was 15. I didn’t have a chance to complete school and I was forced to quit when I was in class 5. The man I married had HIV and I didn’t know about it until I had two sons. As soon as I found out, I ended things with him. My family wasn’t the least bit supportive of my decision, so I left the house leaving the kids behind. That was the first time I came to the city to look for a job and I decided that I would be a sex worker. I went to a brothel and registered myself by paying Rs. 250/- and went to one of the popular bus stands to look for a client. That’s how I began working as a sex worker.

One night, after making a deal with my client I took him in a car and we were headed to his place. Once we were at his place, I noticed that there were a bunch four other men there, all drunk out of their minds. I had started to protest but by then it was too late, I was physically beaten and gang raped by five of them despite telling them that I had HIV. They taunted me saying that I was lying and were in a hurry to go between my legs. Once the ordeal was over, I escaped by hiding myself in a truck and went to the nearest police station. I had shown the bruises I had on my body and private parts, and asked for the help. Their reaction was, “You are a sex worker, how does this classify as rape when you are whoring around town for money?” My case was never registered and investigated. The men were never convicted and they’re probably out infecting HIV to other women. I now work closely with NGOs and lawyers to help other sex workers like myself. Society doesn’t take our rights seriously and doesn’t understand that we too have the rights for ourselves, that it is possible to be a sex worker and be sexually harassed. The concept of consent doesn’t exist in our world because society sees us as sex workers.”

Her story is just one among the 70% of sex workers in India who go through violence, some even lose their lives in the process. It is time to renew our commitment to the on-going struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all sex workers.

Final thoughts:

What are your opinions about human rights for sex workers? Do you think that we as a society must be sensitive to their needs? How best can we support a minority community like theirs? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and continue tweeting to us on Twitter. You can also write to us at jaagorein@gmail.com and on our Facebook page.

Source for Sex Workers Survey:

World Health Organisation

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