Untainted and free—educating children of sex workers

The pandemic has hit various countries and strata’s of society differently, bringing to surface the inequalities present in our world. Social distancing, no contact, fear of the ever spreading invisible enemy and isolation has caused innumerable impacts on people’s lives. Work from
home is increasingly becoming the new work culture. It has blurred the boundaries of work and life. But these separations can exist only for few that have the privilege to be able to continue working without social contact. What happens to work that depends on the very meeting of two bodies? Sex workers in India have suffered hugely due to the pandemic, and the fears and limitations the virus has caused in their line of work has had a deep impact on their sustenance. In India, there are 6.6 lakh sex workers according to a 2016 estimate by the UN. According to the National Aids Control Organisation, over 1.3 lakh sex workers are from Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal. New research indicates that more than 90% of commercial sex workers in these three states are facing debt this year. The major decrease in the inflow of clients and the reduction of prices to get clients has caused financial insufficiency for them and their children.

These struggles due to the pandemic combined with the struggle for sex work to be recognised as a profession causes a major setback for a community that barely receives external support and are often closely knit in order to support one another. They have faced difficulties to receive the respect they deserve by society, and the right to be cared for by the government. These stigmas do not end with them but are passed on to their children. One of the biggest problems faced by their children is the lack of education because of the weight of the stigma that is inflicted upon them, along with insufficient finances. But the bigger issue is that they avoid going to school because of the shame that comes from their mother’s
profession or their place of residence when living in brothels. Being bullied, demeaned and insulted causes deep emotional impacts that affects their development and desire for achievement. The lack of education affects their own future, often leading them to pursue the same profession, not out of an active, conscious choice but out of helplessness and lack of opportunities.

The initiative by Purnkuti to educate the children of sex workers is addressing this major gap that children from these communities face. They can aid in giving opportunities to the children of sex workers to be educated in an environment where they feel safe, respected and cared for. An external space that recognises them for who they are and not where they come from. A space that treats them equally and does not look at sex work as deplorable. Their everyday struggle to be accepted in society can inhibit them from pursuing their dreams and believing that they deserve the basic right to education, respect and love. With education comes agency. Through gaining knowledge, having a sense of community and feeling accepted, they can hone their innate power to change their lives and chase their ambitions. The chains of shame can be broken to give wings to acceptance, self-respect and the pursuit of their own dreams, untainted and free.