15 April, 2021

Red, Green Lights

Battered by the pandemic and teetering at the edge, sex workers hope a NHRC advisory would get them government grants and dignity of labour

Slow, rainy days
A scene from a street in Mumbai’s Kamathipura red light district
Photograph by AP
Red, Green Lights

The venomous, many-headed virus, in its indiscriminate torrent, swallowed livelihoods whole, especially those deeply tied to human contact—travel and tourism were the first to fall prey, so too did restaurants and bars. These are lately showing signs of flickering back to life, buoyed by the imperatives of a ‘new nor­­mal’. Yet, an industry whose stock in trade is that most intimate of human acts, its purveyors denizens of a sha­­­­d­­ow­land, cowers atill in darkness and neglect.

The red-light area of Gokulnagar in Sangli, Maharashtra, lies frozen in inactivity even at 8 pm, when it normally hea­ves with people. The empty streets echo only with sounds of police cars out on Covid duty. A few souls, intent on see­king the usual services, slink away at their sight. As night falls, the women at the doorsteps retire to their rooms. Ano­ther grim day draws to an end. Sex workers across India share their desperation.


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