May 28, 2024

#DoCCDiaries: Durbar: Fight against stigma for ‘dignity of profession’

Mohit Shukla, PGDM 2023-2025  

As the day dawned I received my DoCC assignment and learned of the topic—anti-trafficking of women and girl children into prostitution—A wave of uncertainty washed over me. I was not sure I was ready to tackle such a delicate subject, especially after watching a moving film in class on the predicament of sex workers. I began researching the complex problems related to human trafficking to better comprehend the situation. I struggled to comprehend the scope of the work that was ahead with every possible instrument. A thousand questions were racing through my head as the travel date approached. Above all, there was an intense desire to go into the experience with an open mind and an unclouded conscience, free of any biases or preconceptions. I set out on my trip in the hopes of learning new things and being able to make a significant contribution to society.

Fast forward to my arrival in Kolkata, accompanied by my other teammates. We reached the doorstep of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee— a glimmer of hope amidst the darkness of discrimination and exploitation. Over the past month, we have interviewed several sex workers, understood the work of Durbar, and been deeply impacted by stories we have heard. We have seen first-hand the group’s tenacity and resolve to fight for their rights, which included obtaining identity cards and speaking out against police harassment. I will never forget the experience of seeing a moving nukkad natak performance featuring the great Usha Uthup. Even though I could not understand much Bengali, the artists’ unadulterated emotions spoke louder than words. Their passionate statements put attention on the harsh realities of the sex industry and the struggles that sex workers face.

What stood out to me among all the emotional intensity was the artists' solidarity as they eloquently portrayed the challenges of people from a variety of backgrounds, including LGBTQIA+ people. This group’s representation demonstrated the effectiveness of friendship in raising voices and promoting change. There is also a mela going on by the children of sex workers ‘Amra Padatik’ where I realised that a sex worker mother wants the same as what all mothers want, equal opportunities for their children. Durbar ‘vaishya’ or ‘prostitute’ which makes them more determined to demand respect and acknowledgment.

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