by Urmila Chanam
“I believe we still have not reached the last sex worker and we will walk until we reach her.” - Ashodaya Samithi member, Mysore, India.
In 2004, a handful of women visited Sonagachi in Kolkatta’s Shobha Bazar-Beadon Street area, the largest red-light district in India and Asia lined with several hundred multi-story brothels and an estimated 13,000 sex workers. In Sonagachi, they also found several NGOs and government organizations operating for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The Sonagachi Project, run by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), focuses on the empowerment of sex workers to insist on condom use and stand up against abuse. They observed lobbying efforts to recognize sex workers rights, a cooperative bank, micro-loans, and literacy and vocational programmes. They began thinking of how things were back home. The seed had been sown....