February 13th, 2016
Image Courtesy: lmt-lss
The West Bengal government has come up with an initiative to rehabilitate sex workers by training interested women in acting, singing and dancing to give them a shot at making a career in films or daily soaps.
Sonagachi – Asia’s largest red-light area
Sonagachi(considered to be Asia’s largest red-light area), located in Kolkata, houses about 11,000 sex workers whose main source of income is the several multi-storeyed brothels that occupy a major part of the district. Women from many neighbouring districts and cities flock to the prostitution centre so that they can feed their family, educate their children or escape their abusive husbands. Many of them who are victims of human-trafficking at very young ages end up living out their lives as sex workers. Some of them are accustomed to their lives and are not ready to give up their jobs, but as they grow older, the inflow of money starts dwindling.
Failure as a stepping stone
In order to help those who have been forced to choose the life of a sex worker, the West Bengal Government under the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched a livelihood programme called ‘Muktir Alo’(Light of Freedom) on September 4th,2015 to rehabilitate those sex workers who were ready to make a new beginning. Training in vocational skills like spice grinding, block printing, sewing and weaving were going to be offered to those who expressed their eagerness to take up new jobs under the ‘Muktir Alo’ initiative. But the training programme failed as it was not cost-effective.
The Next Celebrity
The West Bengal government has now come up with a feasible alternative that involves focussing on training for women interested in acting, dancing and singing to give them a shot at making a career in films or daily soaps. The state’s women development and social empowerment minister Sashi Panja said “This is a second phase of the rehabilitation programme for the sex workers and their family members and those girls who have been rescued from the flesh trade. In this project we aim to train them in dancing, acting and singing, so that they can get an opportunity in movies and serials”. The girls are also being given English lessons to broaden their chances of creating a new life for themselves. Sashi Panja also stated that her department has already spoken to many film and serial producers to ensure that the trained women get employed.
Mixed reactions with a touch of hope
Samrajit Jana, who founded the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) in 1992 to empower sex workers to assert their rights, said: “The project has generated a lot of curiosity among sex workers especially their young children.” The DMSC has started campaigning in Sonagachi to reach out to all the women and inform them about the opportunity at hand.
Nearly fifty women have signed up for the training sessions hoping that it would help them make a mark on the silver screen. However, many others are not too optimistic about starting afresh. Having faced severe discrimination on grounds of being a prostitute, most of the women believe that they were destined to become sex workers and will never be able to work anywhere else owing to their past.
The Logical Indian appreciates the government for implementing a scheme that could potentially give the people of the Sonagachi region a chance for a better life. We hope that the scheme succeeds this time in the rehabilitation of sex workers.