A six-day conference of sex workers began here on Wednesday with participants taking a pledge to protest violence, particularly sexual assault, against women.
“Women have been subjected to all kinds of violence in the past. But, in recent times, sexual assault on women has increased in the State [West Bengal] and in the country. We condemn such acts and are trying to build a synergy among different sections of society, including sex workers, to protest against such acts,” Bharti Dey, general secretary of Durbar Mahila Samanway Committee, a sex workers’ collective, told The Hindu after the inauguration of the event.
Sex workers plan to participate in discussions on issues concerning their well-being as well as those relating to trafficking of minors and pension to old sex workers.
“The movement of sex workers has become successful because they have learned to recognise themselves as ‘workers,’ like people of any other profession. Today, they have been integrated into other larger campaigns such as Pension Parishad,” Samarjit Jana, adviser, DMSC, said.
While there is a growing demand for pension to workers in the unorganised sector, it is the sex workers who need it the most as the number of years they work is short, Poornima Chikarmane, a Pune-based activist said, adding that the conference would try to increase awareness on the subject. Activists pointed out that after a certain age, sex workers are left at the mercy of others in the profession.
Issues like female infanticide, pre-natal sex determination, and child marriage will also be discussed at the gathering. There will be a special focus on health-related issues, particularly prevention of diseases like AIDS, organisers said.
The theme of this year’s festival, which is expected to draw about 12,000 representatives, is “Pratibade Nari Partirode Nari” (protests by women, prevention by women).