I am a sex worker and I am a Migrant…

My name is Rekha
I am a sex worker
And, I am a migrant
Migrant to the city of Ahmedabad
I come from West Bengal, where my poor parents live
I work, earn and send them money so that they can buy food and pay our debts
It will be 20 years for me in Ahmedabad
I’ll be turning 40 soon.

Last week, I went to the doctor again
She says, it’s the final stage
And that I would not live for long
A Stoic, she says this as if she has said the same thing to 10 more people in the day
I wonder if any of this is my fault.

I have been in the hospital for three weeks now
Abdul, my agent has also stopped coming to visit me
They say, he is busy.
Everything is similar to what happened to Shobha

Shobha, my friend
She came with me from Bengal
She was five years older and we lived together
She got sick, and then Abdul had stopped taking interest in her business
I can’t get clients for her, it’s dangerous, he said once to me.
Shobha died in the hospital alone
There was no one.

They tried to burn her body
Then someone said, she was a Muslim and we needed to bury her
But, she had no papers
She was a migrant
She could not be buried in the city
Abdul told me the NGO wallahs, who visit our chawl, tried hard to get her a decent burial
But they failed
Her body was taken some 100 kms from the city where she was buried.

I’m glad I am not a Muslim
They would not have to find a burial place for me.
My body can be burnt, when I die.

My name is Rekha
I am a sex worker
And, I am a migrant.

Our work at Aajeevika takes us to meet a variety of migrant streams. Last month, we visited an organisation that works with sex workers in Ahmedabad. Most of the sex workers, we were told, are migrants to the city, coming from West Bengal and Bangladesh. Their work is not legal. Being migrants, they do not have access to any state benefits at the destination. They do not have any identity card, no voter card, no ration card, nothing. One story where a migrant sex worker could not be buried in the city because the NGO could not establish her identity was too much to bear. That serves as the trigger for this blog entry.

– Amrita Sharma, Aajeevika Bureau

[I am grateful to the team of Sakhijyot for sharing their experiences with us. May the passion that guides your work light up many more lives and ignite more minds]

This entry was posted in Migration Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I am a sex worker and I am a Migrant…

  1. Kamlesh Sharma says:

    it really touches heart, simple but solid
    it is an example of how the struggles of hunger and dignity is going parallel and for most of the migrants these never looks complimenting each other.

  2. Divya Varma says:

    Superb piece, Amrita. I still remember the pain in their eyes when they told us about how the woman had to be buried so far away. Cant imagine the grave realities that must exist in the villages of Bengal that drive these women to come so far for sex work. And indeed there would be similar stories, hitherto untold, that exist in many many Indian villages and cities. Here we are, fighting for the rights of people who do “legal” work- what about those who are forced into “illegal” trades- they cant even fight for any kind of social protection- a true case of stark helplessness and victimhood. Cheers to their indomitable spirit !

  3. Nina Jhaveri says:

    What a powerful and poignant message. Amrita, through the voice of Rekha you have captured not only the immediately visible difficulties a woman of her community faces, but through a matter-of-fact narration touch upon the resigned acceptance with which sex workers deal with poverty, ignorance, exploitation and death. Such manner of resignation is not only pervasive among migrant sex workers, but also among migrants across other trades who have tried, failed, and often given up on securing recognition, support, and access to the most basic of rights. I hope this story inspires others as much as it has inspired me.

  4. Jyotsna Lall says:

    this is beautifully captured amrita – very moving

    reminds me of a horror story i read in bangalore where a father could not transport his dead son’s body in the public transport and could not afford a taxi and so he bought a trunk and cut up his son’s body so that he could transport it by bus to his village for a proper cremation

    i don’t how many more indignities the poor will have to suffer

  5. sukanta pal says:

    it really touches heart, simple but solid

  6. This is really touchy, we should work on it. we are working for the education of kids of migrant construction worker.

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