“Philosophically, there is nothing wrong with being a sex worker!”, says a friend of mine who believes that it’s a forced business in which girls are kidnapped and raped — like several others I talked to.
So, is it okay to be a sex worker? In India?
When I talk about sex workers, I’m primarily referring to women here as they are the most exploited and populated gender in this industry. Though a part of male sex workers is also forced to enter this business, the majority chooses it on their own.
“When the society is not able to get over with the taboo of considering women’s body as an object of desire, it’s hard for a sex worker to get any respect,” thinks a student of public policy.
I did a small survey and asked my friends. 5 out of 10 people stated that it is NOT okay to be a sex worker; no matter what. There are several other professions (read ugly/ disrespectful), which can be opted as per them.
3 out of 10 believed that most of them are trafficked, forced or tortured to get into this profession, which I completely agree with. They don’t respect the profession but do respect (read sympathise) the people involved in this — sex workers and not the pimps or babus.
And, 2 out of 10 people are convinced that it is OKAY to be a sex worker — if chosen by choice and not forced into. They do respect the profession!
While 98% are forced into this swamp, there is a minuscule section who are trading in their body voluntarily. From being called a despised sex worker to a high-end escort, these women are categorised based on trade they do, clients they own and are accepted accordingly!
So, here I’m, asking again! Is it okay to be a sex worker? In India?
Whilst I say yes, I intend to fall in that 30 % who respect the sex workers and not the pimps; I also believe that one must respect the profession too.
Perplexing, isn’t it? Maybe, I hang in between that 20 % and 30% of juntas!
Agar badan ka khoon bhi bechna pade, toh karunga. Lekin mere baccha log ko padhayega. Yeh line mein nahi aane dega!— Roopmati, a sex worker residing in Mumbai
Jab zarurat tha tab kisine madat nahi ki. Toh mai haath kyun failau? Main apne paise ka kamata hun, khata hun, aur baccha ko padata hun!— Farida, another lady from the same basti of Mumbai
These are the plight of the sex workers in India. They were left with no choices and preferred trading in their body than something else for a meagre amount.
You talk to the person for half-an-hour and then the other half-an-hour in bed. You make a lot of money and it’s easy.— Zeba who chucked a modeling assignment to become an escort
You sell your brain, we sell our body. What’s the fuss about? I feel our society is still very judgemental. If a boy and girl go on a blind date and end up having sex—that’s fine. But if the guy pays the girl for sex, it becomes unethical.— Kajal
These are the perquisites of the escorts in India. They had several other options but preferred trading in their body for earning more money and a better lifestyle.
Women like Zeba and Kajal prefer to tag themselves as an escort rather than a sex worker. They live a world far away from the infamous red light areas — doing their business in 5-star hotels and not in brothels.
With a clientele that includes engineers, businessmen, lawyers, architects, doctors, and others from educated backgrounds, they feel that they get much exposure in this profession unlike any other. For them, it’s more than just having sex!
It’s sneering that how being an escort is still okay for some people but not being a sex worker. I guess the word gets promoted with the class.
While the low-end class would seek a sex worker, the middle class would look for a call girl, and a high class would end up with an escort.
In a whole, it’s all the same!
Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi once quoted, “these are the high-class girls, and it is them exercising their democratic rights.” Though she condoned this very old profession, she also added the tag of ‘high-class’ worsening it even more for the women suffocating in brothels.
While another friend of mine assumes that if given an opportunity, women would leave this business themselves; there is a section who are not WILLING to do so.
It’s not about the lack of skills anymore, it’s about what pays better!
We, ironically, stay in a society where men love to talk about Savita Bhabhi but refrain from talking about sex workers. Where women are okay with one night stands but find it disdainful if another woman does it for money. Where people show disgust towards a rapist but doesn’t consider the ones who are quenching the thirst of several of them.
The real question is not about if being a sex worker is okay or not. It’s about their conditions, their stories, and their pain. They are looked down upon by society because of the ‘low end’ tag they get.
For some, the journey from being a ‘sex worker to a ‘call girl’ to an ‘escort’ is very long (read neverending). And probably, this is why they will never be accepted by society. But I say, if it is okay to be an escort, it is okay to be a sex worker as well!
June 2 is recognised as International Sex Workers Day globally. Let’s take a moment to identify this not so marginalised community who are carrying their stories deep down their heart and let’s have a moment of respect for them.
The views expressed here are personal and are not influenced by any third party or organization.
Featured Image: Movie Chameli