We interviewed a few sex workers in Kolkata for the documentary and fortunately my job was to do interpretation between sex workers and Seranna so I talked to them personally. I noticed one thing was that most of the sex workers we talked to came in this profession after some kind of bad thing happened with them at some point of their lives. I talked to this one sex worker who was basically from Faizabad but now lives in Kolkata, who said that she had done a love marriage with a Muslim guy, who was not accepted by her family, so she had to leave her home and come to Kolkata.
After spending a few months in Kolkata she discovered that her husband was a drug user. She told him several times to quit drugs and get a job but he never wanted to do it. Finally she had a child but she did not have any money because her husband did not have a job and she could not ask her family to help her because she had already gone against her family by marrying a Muslim guy. Then she decided to leave the home and went to a brothel and became a sex worker.
She is happy now because she has a better life than her husband gave her. She says that now she is not dependent on anyone and is free to do whatever she wants and now she has developed good relations with her family as well. There was some problem in the beginning when her family came to know she had became a sex worker but now everything is Okay. Actually this sex worker was a program co-ordinator of Durbar (the sex worker’s organization) so she would often be on the news and when her neighbors back at her hometown saw her on TV talking about sex work, they started asking her parents about it.
Her parents also asked her to leave this profession but she had decided that she would never ever leave her job. She is very happy to be a sex worker and she dreams to be a sex worker again in her next life. When we asked about what would she like her child to do then she said that she want her child to go to school and get some job. But there is a big problem for sex workers getting their children admitted in the schools. Actually they do not have any residential proof because most of the sex workers in India are brought from either Nepal or Bangladesh.
Since they come from some other country, or even if they are from India, they do not have any residential proof because they usually change their residence quiet often or they work under some brothel owner who acts as a dictator. Usually they are not allowed to go out of the brothel area. Sometimes they go out to work at hotels but not everyone can go. Brothel owners send only those sex workers to hotels or somewhere else of the brothel who have spent few years at the brothels. Because if they have spent some time in this profession then they do not want to run away, or sometimes brothel owners send someone else with the sex workers to hotels.
One other big problem of the sex workers is the money that they make from their profession. Sex work in India is very cheap and sex workers do not have any social idnentity or security. Usually they charge Rs. 50-100 per client because sex work in India is very quick. Clients come, have sex for 5-10 minutes and then they leave. Sometimes they do not even see the face of the person they are having sex with. Sex workers want to hide their identity and clients also want to do the same thing. So this work is very hidden.
Sometimes sex workers work for an hour with one client and this is only time when they make something like Rs. 500 or so. But this doesnt happen often. Usually they have some regular client who is very friendly to them and want to spend more time, sometimes they do overnight booking as well but only with some speical clients. After work they are supposed to give half of their income to the brothel owner so they make something like Rs. 50 per clients. Since this money is nothing, they are seeing more than ten clients per day which is horrible. It makes them sick.
Because of this residential proof problem they can not open a bank account or go to the places where they ask for the identity proof. In India residential proof documents are often checked after the Mumbai bomb blast so these sex workers have really hard time nowadays. And if they are caught then the police send them to jail. Each and every sex worker talked about the Police. They said that the police raid the brothels sometimes and beat them, put them in jail, abuse them but the same police come the next day to have sex with them.
They said that the brothel owner gives some money to the local police station every month so that they do not raid the brothels but police still do it whenever there is some political pressure on them or when they want to make some money. A few sex workers said that once the police took them to the jail and had sex with them inside the jail. It was shocking to hear that how these law protectors break the laws. They said that sometimes the police call the children of the sex workers and have sex with them. It was disaster. I could not believe that anyone could do this.
We asked sex workers if they give blow job or doing message or some other services to their clients and most of them said straight away that they do not give blow job or do message. There was only woman who said that she gives blow job sometimes but only to some special clients. Blow job is something that nobody wants to talk abuot in India. I have also heard that Indian sex workers do not give blow job which sounds strange. I think they can make more money by doing this. I dont know for whatever reason people do not even talk about it. They say that it is English style of sex but I think it is very very old Indian style. Maybe we taught to British and they spread it all over the world.
One of the sex workers told me this story about when Durbar had just started working and wanted to give them basic writing and reading knowledge. Durbar wanted to have a space to start their classes so they asked people living around the brothels to rent them a room. They waited for two months, talked to almost everyone in that neighborhood to rent them a room but nobody did it. A lot of them came to Durbar asking why they wanted to educate sex workers. They said that if the sex workers are educated then they will not respect other people and they will start making their own decisions. Finally Durbar had to start these classes at their own office which was like one kilometers away from the brothels.
One other very interesting thing was that most of the sex workers have a regular customer who is something special for them. This customer is not only a customer for them, they are like their life partners. They support the kids of the sex workers. It is very hard for sex workers to get their children admitted in the school because they are supposed to write the name of the father of the child and bring them to school but it is impossible for them. So in this case sometimes this special customer helps and give his name as the father of the child.
We asked them questions regarding sexually transmitted diseases as well and to be honest nobody knew about anything except HIV. They did know what lube was. They said that even though they use condoms but sometimes they break off. When we asked them reason behind it all of them said that it was only because of low quality condoms but I think lube also helps a lot. I had also never ever seen lube before Lane showed me. I don’t know why it is not available in our market. They really need training and education but unfortunately government is not doing anything for them.
All of the sex workers said that sex work should be decriminalized which I also believe in. I think that sex work is the second oldest profession of the world, or maybe the first. I think either agriculture or sex work is the oldest profession and it should be legalized and decriminalized. They are also part of our society and they should also be respected in the society like other people. I think it will take a really long time for sex work to be legal in India because our politics is at its worse level now. If one part would do something for them then other parties would start pulling leg of the first party. But this organization is doing nice work and I hope to see change.