The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of vulnerable communities as well as those affected by systemic poverty. Urban-based sex workers are another sub-population at increased risk for contracting COVID-19. Unstable housing, poverty, mal nutrition, increased criminalization, and limited access to health care services put sex workers at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
HELP organisation anticipated the looming danger, as soon as the lockdown and evening curfews was announced. Basic rations and medicines were prioritised. The tensions in the community were on a rise. The streets, usually buzzing with activity and a booming business, were now as deserted as a graveyard. This was unprecedented. The women were familiar with day-long, statewide or nationwide “bandhs,” and even then, their neighbourhood would see bustling activity in the evenings as there was no curfew. But this lockdown dealt a severe mental blow to the women in this profession. Restrictions on public movement lead to loss of customers and thus, loss of livelihoods. And the struggle for survival began anew.
These sex workers lives and work are in a grey zone that is considered illicit, spills over into practical issues such as a lack of identification documents such as voters’ ID cards, Aadhaar numbers, caste certificates or ration cards which remain inaccessible to the majority of sex workers. Many are single mothers and unable to produce proof of residence for long periods of time or show ancestral documents required for obtaining caste certificates
A large proportion of sex workers work from home (rented houses) and arrange clients via mobile phones, independently or through an agent. A large percentage of women are housewives, and their families do not know of their work. During the pandemic, their livelihood came to a complete halt. They were unable to explain the loss of livelihood to their families or approach collectives who were extending relief to sex workers in brothels. The invisibilisation by the state and the long history of conditional government assistance has been evident during the pandemic. While the government identified several categories of marginalized groups such as transgender people, persons with disabilities, informal sector workers and migrants for immediate relief, sex workers were left out of all relief packages.
Much like last year, the most vulnerable are those from the underprivileged sections of our society. And they are looking at another cycle of potentially losing their jobs and so being unable to meet their day-to-day requirements.
Now, more than ever, we need to come together to help mitigate this crisis and help supplement governmental efforts.
So, when you donate towards this campaign, you will be directly helping these sections of our society and helping many people fight the COVID-19 crisis.
Funds raised will be used for:
1. Supplying food rations to families with zero or low income
2. Health and mental wellbeing
3. Supporting sex workers families of Covid positive patients
4. Distribution of sanitizers, masks and other protective gear