Author: Nibedita Roy
Author Affiliation: Research Scholar, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, J.N.U, New Delhi.
Abstract: The paper aims to explore the lived experience of sex workers amidst the pandemic and the induced lockdown. It also attempts to question the idea of safe workspace, the sustainability of ‘social distancing’ in the context of sex workers in India.Based on primary and secondary data, it attempts to analyse the issues and challenges faced by the sex workers in Kolkata amidst the COVID-19 crisis, their coping strategies and the role of government and community-based organisations in reaching out to them and in developing appropriate mitigation strategies.The paper argues that amidst the precarious conditions, the sex workers with limited economic and social capital struggled to survive hunger and poverty and were compelled to take up the life risk. Nevertheless, the community-based organisation and civil society have been instrumental in fighting the crisis and continued to raise their demands for inclusion and rights as labour, albeit the stigma associated with their identity. Further, the need for collective intervention and need for acknowledging the long term implications of the pandemic on sex workers by the State and society was proposed rather than denying their existence.
Keywords: Covid-19, Sex Workers, Social Distancing, Stigma.