Condom usage demonstration & training to the sex workers

I, Seranna and translator

Seranna and I did something that India had never seen before. On the last day of the conference we did a condom usage demonstration in front of at least 6000-7000 people. We gave training to sex workers about how to keep themselves safe from sexually transmitted diseases and how to make money. After interviewing sex workers we realized that they did not know much about any STDs other than HIV. So I asked Seranna to talk about STDs in her presentation. We knew that she would be performing on the last day of the conference so we thought that it would be good opportunity for us to spread the message to a huge number of people at the same time.

I (look at the mask) and Seranna

I (look at the mask) and Seranna

Seranna was sad to see how poor Indian sex workers are. She said that western sex workers make a lot of money. She charges $300 per hour which is like two-three months salary of an Indian sex worker. She wanted to talk about how sex workers can make more money from their clients. I know that it will long time for Indian sex workers to reach on that standard but I think it was a good thing to at least tell them about it. On the last day of conference there were about 6000-7000 people, most of them were sex workers.

I and Seranna

Seranna and I

Since we made the decision to talk about different things in the Seranna’s presentation on the morning of the presentation day, we could not organize well. We had only a few hours to decide what we would be talking about. We decided to do a play to make the conversation more interesting. I had asked Seranna to bring some sex toys and she had brought three dildos and Seranna wanted to use them for the presentation. I was concerned about using sex toys in front of that huge number of people because sex toys are illegal in India.

I and Seranna on the stage

I asked Seranna to ask the organizer of the conference about using sex toys and the organizer said- go for it. But I was still concerned about showing them to people. So I also went to the organizer and talked to him about it and again his answer was same. Seranna and I talked to each other about what we will talk about and decided that this presentation should not be a boring conversation kind of thing. We decided to put some comedy in it, as Seranna always does. Now it was our turn to do the presentation but the problem was that audience was Bengali so we needed someone to translate our words from English to Bengali.

Seranna and I

Seranna and I

We asked the organizer about it and they provided us a Bengali-English translator. I played the role of a doggy customer who did not want to pay upfront and did not want to use condoms and Seranna played the role of a very smart sex worker. I was wearing a mask which was symbol of a doggy customer. This mask was in shape of a penis and balls. We started the presentation with Seranna asking for money up front but I did not want to pay the money first. I asked her to provide the services first but she always wanted money first. So we argued over this matter. I always say that I would pay money after services and Seranna would always say that she was selling her skills so she wanted money upfrontand finally Seranna refused to provide services.

Seranna giving message

Seranna giving message

Then I agree on giving the money first. By this we wanted to tell other sex workers to always ask for money upfront because in some cases the clients do not pay money after taking the services. After this Seranna shows the dildo and it brought dead silence into the audience.I felt really awkward doing it, but I hoped that it was useful for everyone at the conference.I wore that dildo and Seranna sat on her knee to milked it. She wanted to tell other sex workers to do the same with every client before providing services so that they can be sure if the penis is disease free.

Asking me if I felt good

Asking me if I felt good

After this she tells me to use the condoms but again I played the role of a doggy customer and I did not want to use one. I told her that I was married and she also looked safe and that is why I did not want to use condoms. But Seranna says that diseases are not written on the face. Then we talk about HIV/AIDS and other STDs and finally I agree to use the condoms. Then Seranna tells me to lay down on my belly on the bench and gave message and did a boob slide. By this we wanted to educate sex workers about how they can pass more time with their clients and how they can make them happy so that they make more money, and get even a tip.

Picking the condoms up

Picking the condoms up

After this Seranna puts the condom over the dildo by her mouth. Actually this dildo was so big that she had to try twice to put the condom over it. Here Seranna mixed some comedy by saying that this boy is big.Before this sentence the whole audience was silent but after hearing this everybody started laughing and clapping. I am sure they were also enjoying it. After putting the condom over dildo she gives a blow job. We had few toys of the STDs viruses. Seranna would act like giving blow job and then show the different toys and tell about how they spread and what they can do. I liked the way she explained about all different diseases very much.

STDs virus toys

STDs virus toys

And then she acted like we were having sex and she would ask me if I was enjoying it. This was also one very important part of this training to tell sex workers to keep talking to their clients about how they feel while having sex. This way the men become more erected and cum early (I believe in the idea of working smart, not hard). So good for sex workers. By this time our time and bench’s life was finished. It broke and we fell down on the ground and this dead silence amongst the audience turned into loud noise of laughing and clapping. I loved it.

Going to put condoms over the didlo

Going to put condoms over the dildo

At last I give her a tip for her awesome services. I believe that this kind of sex services can change the lives of Indian sex workers. I am sure that Indian men would love to have that kind of services but I don’t understand why our sex workers do not do such things. I hope this presentation helps them to make more money and change their lives. Right after this presentation we were covered by the media, social workers , sex workers and other general people. All these people wanted to talk to us. They wanted to interview us. It was so fun doing it. Maybe we will also do the same thing in the US in the coming June.

Interview with sex workers

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.

Comparing Countries Compassion

Laxmi and Seranna

Laxmi (a transgender) and Seranna

Seranna started her documentary calledComparingCountries CompassioninKolkata which is about sex work and sex workers in India. It is Seranna’s project which she will be doing in different countries but she wanted to start it from India. She has chosen me to help her organizing interviews and she wants to interview me also regarding my work with Sanjeevani Booti. She has hired camera crew from Delhi who don’t seem professional, especially the cameraman. He is crazy. He always fights with other crew members. Actually they all fight with each other in front of interviewee. Sometimes they start asking questions to the interviewee. Seranna was also upset sometimes but we did nothave any hope. This production company is big and is run by a award winning person for his direction but unfortunately he was not with us.

This documentary is about comparing laws in different countries regarding sex workers. I really liked this project and she has given me a very challenging job of giving ideas of direction and doing translation. I translated few interviews of sex workers. We interviewed a few sex workers, social activists, professors of university of Kolkata, transgender people, children of sex workers… it was awesome. We did a condom usage demonstration also and trained sex workers about how to keep themselves safe and how to make more money from their clients. This documentary will be a huge success for sure. I feel fortunate to be part of it.

Second day with Seranna

I met Seranna today at her hotel and talked her about two hours. We talked about how the shooting went last day. She said that they were supposed to shoot the sex workers at G.B. Road but could not because the sex workers and brothel owner did not allow her. She just talked them, actually she did not understand much about what they were talking about because the shooting crew was not good with the translation work. They talked to the sex workers but most of the time they did not transalte. She saidit was okay and she was happy withwhat she was getting.

Seranna said that the brothel owner charged her Rs. 20,000 ($450) just to get them in and organize aten minutes dance show by sex workers.They did not let her shoot this dance part or anything inside the brothels.She was still happy withwhatever happened.I am sure she is very cool and happygirl:). Isee this as a mistake of crew members. When I had worked forCBC and MTV Italy, we did a research first so this way everything was very well organized.But with this documentary nothing isorganized. I did not like it at all.

Seranna said that after spending few minutes at brothel,the Police came asking forbribe to Seranna. I don’t knowwhat reason they wanted bribe for, or maybe becauseSeranna did not have a legal permission to make a documentarywhich isgoing to be commercialized.I am sure crew members did not tell her about it either.The cameraman is very famous guy but I don’t know how these people can make this big mistakes. Seranna said that everything went well with her and she was so happy with the progress.

I had asked Seranna to bring some sex toys and she has brought a lot of didlo andfake pussy. Few of them will be give tome to use formy NGO. I had never seenit in front so I was exited to see them. She showed me by wearing this fake pussy. It was so funny. She said that she uses thosetoys to educate people about safe sex practices. I believe that these kind of things get attention and then you can make people hear whatyou want them to.I liked the toys a lot.

Seranna said that the crew members do not want me to come to the shooting for whatever reasons but Seranna wanted me to go the shooting today but I said no. Seranna is going to interview two high class sex workers,a politician and going to a conference organized by Delhi university about sex work in India. We will fly to Kolkata tomorrow to attend the conference. I am excited for it.

First day of work with Seranna

Finally I arrived Delhi this morning and went straight to Chandan’s place and then to see Chottala. Seranna had asked me to meet her at 4 o’clock so I could not spend much time with Chottala. I was not happy leaving him. I was supposed to meet Seranna at G.B. Road, brothel no. 71. Chandan drove me there. We reached there and I said Chandan to leave started looking for the brothel no. 71. G.B.Road is near the Ajmeri gate side of New Delhi railway station and is the biggest market of generator parts of Asia. Brothels and this biggest market of Asia was on the same road.

All the shops were at ground floor and brothels were at first floor. I sent a message to Seranna informing her about I had reached there but she did not reply me. I thought that maybe she was busy with shooting. I thought it would be good experience just to walk around so I did not stay near the no. 71 brothel. All the steps going up side to the brothels had few girls wearing all the makeups, calling to the people. I was also called up by several sex workers. They were all very well dressed but I could easily see that they were not healthy.

A lot of sex workers were at the windows and they were also doing the same thing: calling people upstairs. I went to a tea shop and sat there for an hour. All these sex workers were calling people like:- hey black pants; come upstairs, hey blue shirt, Rs.100 only, hey you look tired come to me… Each and every person walking on that road would look at least one to the windows. Now I had spent more than an hour so I thought to start walking. I noted something very strange that there was no education posters and writing about HIV or other STDs in the whole area. I wandered almost all over the sex working area but saw only two posters teaching about condoms and HIV. This was very sad.

As I stood-up, I saw one guy running. I asked few people they said that he was inside a brothel and he was looted by the sex workers. I had heard of the sex workers at brothels looting their clients but I never believed it. I had asked several people about it who go to brothels and all of them said that they never carry any extra cash or any valuable stuffs with them when they go to brothels because sex workers loot their clients sometimes, specially if they are new. I think it is only because sex workers for the brothel owner and give a big cut of their income to the owner so they never make much money.

After spending few more time now I was stopped by a pimp who wanted to sell me a girl. He just came to me and started walking next to me. He asked me would I like to have a girl and I said no and then he was like I will charge only Rs. 200 and give you a very nice girl, young and beautiful. I told him several times that I did not need a girl but he was kept walking next to me and asking the same question again and again. Finally he left me and a new and the most dangerous pimp appeared: the police. They probably did not want to sell me a girl but maybe, who knows.

They came and asked several questions about my identity. It was okay but I was wondering why did they stop me? I was never stopped before at any place in Delhi. There must be some reason behind it. Maybe they wanted me to ask them for a girl. I saw many many young guys, only 13-14 years old, going to the brothels. They all looked kind of afraid going in but they went. Now after spending more than two and a half hours finally Seranna called me and said that she had left her mobile in her car so she was not the texts I was sending her. She asked me to meet her tomorrow. I am so excited for this meeting.