India went into lockdown on March 24 to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions were left in lurch without food or work. Migrant workers stranded far from home started walking hundreds of kilometres.
While the plight of migrant workers and losses incurred by various industries have been highlighted by everyone, what has remained completely out of the orbit is the plight of sex workers post implementation of lockdown.
It is estimated that around 60 per cent of Delhi’s sex workers have returned to their home states due to loss of means of livelihood amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown that pushed many of them to the brink of starvation.
The rest 40 per cent are packed in claustrophobic cabins, these sex workers are left with no income, little food and absolutely no precautions from Covid-19 at Delhi’s red light district, GB Road.
Similarly in other states too they the scenario for sex workers is quite bleak.
But amid all this the silver lining is that political activist Tehseen Poonawalla and his wife Monicka Vadera have come forward and ensured two meals a day for hundreds of sex workers in their city Pune.
Tehseen and Monicka have been religiously distributing food packets to sex workers tucked away in Pune’s red light districts. They started right when the lockdown was announced.
“The pandemic has exposed existing inequalities impacting people already marginalized and living in precarious health and economic situations, often outside social protection mechanisms,” Ms Vadera said.
Both Tehseen Poonawalla and his wife Monicka live between Delhi and Pune owing to their work , however since the lockdown the couple have been at their Pune home along with Tehseen’s mother.
“Most sex workers earn daily wages. But the lockdown and fear of contagion has kept clients away and there is no telling when they will return,” adds Tehseen Poonawalla.
The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and UNAIDS recently released a joint statement calling on countries to take immediate, critical action to protect the health and rights of sex workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.