Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hope for Sex Workers

by Usha Revelli

DR Sunitha Krishnan (33) started a youth Dalit organisation, Sadhbhavana in Bangalore when she was 19 years old. One day, while returning home from a Sadhbhavana meeting, 10 upper-caste men attempted to rape her. Krishnan managed to rescue herself, but her own family and community blamed her for the incident and rejected her.

Following that, Dr Krishnan decided that she would work only for the most oppressed and stigmatised.After completing her MA in social work, Dr Krishnan studied the psychological problems of Mumbai's sex workers for her PhD. In the late 1990s, she moved to Hyderabad and observed the alarming rise in trafficking of girls and women. In 1997, Dr Krishnan started Prajwala, which means a unique ray of light.

Prajwala today is one of the key advisors on anti-trafficking initiatives of the state government and other NGOs. With the support of partner NGOs and community-based organisations, Prajwala helps rescue and rehabilitate women and girls being trafficked and pushed into the sex trade.

Dr Krishnan conducted a study in 2002 on intra-state and inter-state trafficking in Andhra Pradesh. The study revealed that a majority of the females (12-35 years old) working in the red-light areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Goa were from Andhra Pradesh. The catchment areas for the traffickers included almost all the 23 districts spread across coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana regions.

Ad hoc activism should make way for concrete state policies for rehabilitation and restoration. That is why Prajwala has a blueprint for a participatory approach involving the government and the people, to check trafficking," says Dr Krishnan.

Prajwala's anti-trafficking activities include first and second generation prevention, rescue, trauma counselling and providing shelter to the victims. It also provides vocational training and livelihood opportunities to the women and girls.

Out of the 140 people working in Prajwala, 80 per cent are rehabilitated sex workers or rape victims. Prajwala has about 2,000 people as members of its mother committees groups working in slums and the red-light areas. The organisation relies on them to keep a watch in the area and report trends and incidents. In August 2004, Prajwala helped four survivors (former sex workers) get married.

Source: The Navhind Times, November 10, 2004

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