While sex workers in different parts of the world are celebrating International Sex Workers Day, those in Bhubaneswar are not so lucky, as for them, the day is meaningless to them.
Sex worker narrating her plights
Every year, June 2 is observed as International Sex Workers Day. Today, the day is being observed across the globe with the objective to highlight their pathetic living conditions and rampant exploitation, and to offer them their basic rights as citizens.
While sex workers in different parts of the world are taking part in the celebrations, those in Bhubaneswar, Odisha are not so lucky, as for them, the day, by their own admission, is meaningless to them. Notably, there are around 2000 sex workers in Bhubaneswar.
“The Supreme Court in its historic order issued in 2022 said that sex work is a profession and that sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection under the law. But, the Odisha government is not adhering to it,” alleged a sex worker.
“The Supreme Court has directed that sex workers are entitled to dignity. But here in Bhubaneswar who cares for us? We are being treated very inhumanely. The government is doing nothing for us. Our demand is that the government should allow us to live with dignity. We should have houses, ration cards, health cards and other benefits as well,” she added.
“Our work has been recognised as a profession. But why the State government is discriminating against us. During Hockey World Cup, our houses were demolished and we were forced to spend nights under the open sky. Why we are being treated in such a way? Even today we don’t have roof over our heads. We are living in miserable conditions without any basic amenities,” said another sex worker.
Taking a dig at politicians, she said, "Politicians visit during every election and promise us the stars. But after the election, they would visit us once in a blue moon. General Elections 2024 are less than a year away. This time, we can’t be fooled. This time, we may boycott the elections for the fulfillment of our demands."
Regarding the hygiene of the location, they said they are well aware of the health problems they may attract if they put their guards down. “We undergo medical checkups regularly because we are cautious about our health as well as our customers’ health,” said another sex worker.
Narrating their plights, Abharani Choudhury, secretary of Patita Uddhar Samiti, said, “Despite the fact that they are an inalienable part of the society, the government seems to be least concerned about the sex workers. I had submitted a proposal to the Women and Child Development Department highlighting the need of forming ‘Ganika Nigam’ (Corporation for sex workers). But, I don’t know why, the proposal has been put in cold storage.”
“Had it been formed, there would have been a specific location specifically earmarked for them and they wouldn’t have been harassed by anyone. My fight for the Nigam will continue till its formation,” she said.
Reported by Pradeep Pattanayak and Nitesh Kumar Sahoo