FINANCIAL TIMES LIMITED
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
The Economic Times
Scheme to make sex workers self-reliantVADODARA Every day about 200 young girls and women enter the murky world of the world's oldest profession in India, 80 per cent against their will, says a report from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
If blocking 'recruitment' of commercial sex workers is one way to tackle sexual exploitation and spread of HIV, rehabilitation of sex workers and their children could be the most favourable solution, the NHRC adds. Reasserting its faith in this statement, a city-based NGO has taken the first step towards helping the target group to attain self-reliance.
Through a occupational rehabilitation programme, based on the guidelines issued by the NHRC, the S C Patel Trust has floated a special loan scheme for commercial sex workers and their children, to provide them with education and employment. The project was launched recently in collaboration with Unnati Co-operative Bank, which will render loans at a soft rate of interest and preferential interest on deposits, to encourage saving. The interest will be borne by the trust.
"With our new scheme, we want to encourage these women to take up employment in safe industries to avoid re-trafficking. We work on harm-minimisation method, which stresses on repatriation and reintegration," explains Dr Yogesh Patel, medical director of the trust, adding that about 33 commercial sex workers have already approached them for help. "Our challenge would be re-integrate them into the society. We need to train them in vocational skills to help them take up jobs. We have marked areas like nursing, cottage industries, NGOs for their employment that are safe and sensitive to their needs," says Patel.
The new loan scheme was an offshoot of an earlier project carried out by the trust under National Aids Control Organisation (NACO).
"Our trust was one among the few NGOs that carried out district-mapping exercise to identify HIV and STD cases. The project, co-sponsored by NACO and MS University's faculty of social work, studied all the high-risk groups in the district and identified about 300 sex workers," explains Sonia Kaul, a NACO-sponsored counsellor and field worker.
"Through confidence-building activities, we need to encourage women to give up flesh trade," says Anand Christian, an outreach worker.
Raising concern over the alarming increase in the number of commercial sex workers in the state, Patel says, "The reasons for increase in sex workers in Gujarat could be the recent recession, earthquake and the riots. From a nominal supply zone, Gujarat has turned into a high supply zone of commercial sex workers, like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu."
The Economic Times 05/05/03
Created: May 9, 2003
Last modified: May 9, 2003
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