Plea in Delhi High Court seeks direction to Delhi government to help sex workers and transgender community.   |  Photo Credit: ANI
- With no work in hand, the lockdown has begun to take a toll on sex workers and transgenders
- Plea in Delhi High Court seeks direction to Delhi government to help sex workers and transgender community during lockdown
New Delhi: The livelihood of many people has been curtailed since the commencement of nationwide lockdown in Delhi in view of Covid 19 pandemic.
With little or no help from the authorities, as alleged, the sex workers and the members of the transgender community are now majorly dependent on the mercy of the good samaritans to meet their basic needs.
Being the only earning member of the family, Babita, a 41-year-old sex worker, leaves her house early in the morning to queue at a nearby food camp. It usually turns noon by the time she returns home. While she is out, her family members including her daughter with two children and a tuberculosis-infected daughter-in-law who has recently delivered a baby, wait for her return.
Before the lockdown, Babita would finish her household chores and leave for Gurgaon in the evening where she would wait for a job, that she wishes to not discuss with many.
With no work in hand, the lockdown has begun to take a toll on Babita who is forced to stay dependent on the food camp or some help from the women from her own community who now and then provide her food kits.
Highlighting the plight of sex workers and the transgender community fighting for the survival, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Delhi High court which has been listed for a hearing on May 11. The petition seeks direction to the Delhi government to provide financial aid, food, shelter and medical facilities to the community members.
The petition has been filed by the advocate Anurag Chauhan who claims that the community continues to face discrimination from the society and even sought an exemption for them from paying rent.
Ruchira Gupta, Founder, Apne Aap Women Worldwide that works for the victims of sex trafficking, told Times Now that since the lockdown, the sex workers have lost the idea of when they will have their income again as the customers will not visit them anytime soon.
“Initially, when we received the call from the distressed sex workers or their family members, we thought that it was temporary and did not realise the scale of the situation. Eventually, we started getting calls from across the country asking for ration supplies. We learnt that the supply chain has started getting affected and cooked meal doesn’t last for long due to the heat,” Gupta said.
Gupta added that some of them are too scared to leave their accommodation fearing the police. They are trapped in their tiny rooms with most of them being harassed by the landlords to pay the rent.
“Those who have not been asked to vacate the premises know that the moment the lockdown ends the rent collectors will be at their doorstep. Their children who used to go to school now stay at home with no online learning facility,” Gupta added.
The activists say that the ‘business’ of the sex workers is not going to be usual anytime soon due to their nature of the work.
Abhina Aher, a transgender ‘hijra’ activist told Times Now that the business of the sex workers started getting affected even before the lockdown as the customers had stopped visiting them.
” Members of the transgender community who earn through begging, toli or through sex work can either only stay at home and die of hunger or go out to find clients. The clients are also not in a position to come to their rescue due to the restrictions on the movement. Besides trans-women, it is the trans-men too who have been massively affected by the lockdown. Some of them who had come to Delhi for their surgeries from different parts of the country are now stuck here. Their surgeries have either been cancelled or have been put on hold,” shared Aher.
Highlighting the plight of the hijra community, Aher elaborated that the 78 per cent of trans women from hijra or kinnar samaj depend on either on begging, toli or sex work for their livelihood.
“Many of the community members are in heavy debts because of their high cost of living. They don’t have bank accounts and live on rent. They are reluctant to go to a nearby food camp because of the stigma they already face. Many are providing them with dry ration but they do not have resources to purchase the cooking gas,” she said.
Abhina added that 7.4 per cent of the transgender population lives with HIV positive and during the lockdown they have not been able to access their ARB medication. Amidst the crisis, the network of sex workers is also gearing up and trying to reach out to its community members.
Kusum from Sex Workers Association told Times Now that while the charity groups are pooling in and helping the sex workers in need, the most affected are the home-based sex workers. “Most of these women have not revealed about the job to their families. They are the sole earning member of the family. Even if a client wants to help them, they have no means to get one. Incidents of domestic violence have also increased,” Kusum said.
The network of the sex workers is also trying to raise the issue of the lack of documentation available with the community members that is making them ineligible for the government schemes.