NEW DELHI: At the age of ‘almost 70’, little has changed for Sadhna*. The capital’s G. B. Road has been her home for as long as she can remember. Sitting at the bottom staircase of a brothel on a hot afternoon, she says elections make little sense to her.
“No leader comes here to ask how our lives can be improved. It is not about any political party. All parties have ignored us year after year,” she said.
A client would typically pay her Rs 220. “But at this age, it is almost impossible to get clients. It is a matter of our survival...But there is no help from any quarters.” Reena* standing next to her. With the capital headed to polls in less than 10 days, sex workers at G. B. Road feel they continue to be an ignored vote bank.
According to Shakti Vahini — an NGO that works in the area, the current population of G. B. Road is over 2,600 where over 500 people have voter identification cards. “The Supreme Court has already said that financial inclusion and the right to live with dignity are applicable...this should eventually lead to a reduction of the exploitation. Bank accounts are being facilitated,” said Ravi Kant, president of the organisation.
Lack of bank accounts, financial security, social stigma, lack of access to healthcare and lack of access to education for their children are the other challenges sex workers in the area are grappling with. “We are struggling to get basic healthcare and our children’s futures are bleak,” said Kaveri*, in her 60s, inside a brothel as her granddaughter interrupted her asking for `10 to buy an ice-cream.
(*Names changed to protect identity)
Demons of DeMo
Demonetisation has affected business in G.B. Road. “Demonetisation has hit our business. Though no party cares for our rights, we will not vote for BJP. The party has not come out with any alternatives for us,” said Rashi*. She says her grandkids are doing well in academics. “One is an engineering student, the other is a medical student.