CHANDIGARH: “Commercial sex workers (CSW) remain at the receiving end of the society but with a little effort they can be the most effective agents of social change”, said Anil Yadav, who works for a local NGO, which has developed a unique way of spreading awareness amongst CSW. The centre is used to educate the CSWs about sexually transmitted diseases, personal hygiene, contraceptives and provide counselling about their personal and professional lives
According to the State AIDS Control Society, the number of female Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) in the city, with a population of less than 20 lakh, is around 3,500. The drop-in-centre has become more then a place for imparting education and awareness, it feels like ‘the only real home’ to many of its members. “This drop-in-centre is a home for many of us, because we can not sit together anywhere and share our problems and many of us have families that are unaware of our work. Here we interact, share problems, even celebrate festivals without any false façade,” said a 40-year-old CSW.
Trained staff and volunteers of the NGO have been employed to counsel the sex workers according to Sameera Yasmeea, supervisor of the centre, “Most female sex workers are from marginalized sections of society and are most vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases because of illiteracy, ignorance and unhygienic living conditions.” The drop in centre encourages them to use contraceptives, which are provided free of cost, and undergo medical examination regularly.
“Any talk of spreading awareness about HIV and safe sex are useless unless CSWs are a part of the process, that’s why we ensure that these ladies get free condoms and are convinced about its benefits. All the CSWs, that we are in touch with, use contraceptives and undergo a regular medical check up, which is a proof that the most common carrier of a deadly virus is most effective in containing it,” said a volunteer who is also a CSW. “Our drop-in centre meets the needs of over 900 CSWs, who are living in the adjoining slum colonies and villages, “added Yasmeea.
The volunteers said that most of the problems that the CSWs faced were with respect to their families, “CSWs also, like all women, need help with domestic issues. Those ladies whose families don’t know of their profession feel an added pressure.” Another volunteer added that the CSWs get exploited a lot from the Police, “The police know how the presence of CSWs, and often use their services also, but whenever they feel like, they ask for bribes or publically humiliate the females.”