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Nepal Social Life - Women
The real issues of sex-work
Moral, cultural factors hindering the real issues of sex-work

Housing and sanitation facilities were abysmal,the localities were crowded, most sex workers looked quite poor suffered by police harassment and violence from local thugs. To top it all, deprivation and distress, stigmatisation and margina-lisation, - the social indignity of being "sinful", being mothers of illegitimate children, being the target of those children"s frustrations and anger- this is all at-a-glance scene in Sonagachhi, a brothel in Kolkata. As I entered the dark lanes of the brothel, I could hear blasting music and children wailing. The brothel owner introduced me to the Nepali girls.

The colorful clothes they wear, the bizarre make-up and loud speeches cover up their pain and anguish. But later the feelings followed. It is after all a very tough occupation, I learnt. With the physical labor, occupational hazards like unwanted pregnancy, painful abortions, and risk of sexually transmitted diseases all prevalent, who can ask for more? I joined the Nepali girls to the mass gathering at Kolkata, the city of Tagore, Teresa and of Joy was not a mere social or political gathering but a union, with a strength of 5000 sex-workers and delegates from the Asia-Pacific Region.

There each of the prostitutes were willing to stand up in the crowd proudly, to declare their status and to reach out to others. Women sex workers of Sonagachhi and neighboring red light areas originally formed the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC). Today, it is an organisation of 60,000 sex-workers. General secretary of the DMSC, Putul Singh, a sex -worker said, "Like many other occupations, sex work is also an occupation, and it is probably one of the "oldest profession" in the world because it meets an important social demand, namely sex". Well, but in our country, anti-trafficking campaigns are carried through by linking the sex trade with an emphasis on emotive words like "trafficking, slaves, and child prostitution".

Thus reinforcing the moral condemnation of prostitution and deflect from the real issues; the exploitation of migrant workers, not just sex workers, and their vulnerable position. Nepali sex workers who seek employment in the sex industry do so for the same reasons as Indian workers, that is to make a good living, to have money, to support families and so on. Because the sex industry is criminalised in much of India and Asia and sex workers cannot travel freely, it is their illegal status as workers that the employers exploit them. Nepali sex workers in Kolkata are not "trafficked " because they were aware of the work and chose to enter freely into the sex-industry on contracts.Recognizing the complexity of the issues and taking into account the range of cultural and moral factors makes it difficult to talk about choice in this context. It is most important however, not to bring in moral views of sex workers as victims. It is sex workers" rights and working conditions that need to be the focus.

There are rare cases where sex workers have been deceived about the type of work they will do and this practice is totally unacceptable to them. Prostitution is bad and should be abolished. It has grave consequences for all the Nepali sex workers. As a result of these campaigns the public is often not able to differentiate between forced prostitution and prostitution as a choice. I myself confused about that matter as to what is better for the sex-workers themselves. But we need to draw a line somewhere between girl trafficking and voluntary prostitution.Girl trafficking is illegal, as it is banded in view of sexual abuse, mental torture and abandons Human Right laws.

Whereas voluntary prostitution should by all means be her sole decision and her right to make the decision, provided she is an adult. "Charity organisations are proned to rescue us and put us in safe homes, developmental organisations are likely to rehabilitate us by managing income generation activities, and the police seem bent upon to regularly raid our quarters in the name of controlling "immoral trafficking" says Purna Maya. "We are not exempt from stigmatisation or social exclusion. As powerless, abused victims with no resources, we are seen as objects of pity" her friends add. But it is very true that people, who are interested and are genuinely concerned in their welfare, often can not think beyond rehabilitating them or abolishing prostitution altogether. However, in reality it is perhaps impossible to "rehabilitate" a sex worker because the society will never erase their identity as prostitutes. Moral, cultural factors hindering the real issues of sex-work.

Woman in Nepal: Social Status
External Link
Maiti Nepal Maiti Nepal
Trafficking: Crime against woman
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