So Many Children Are Forced In To Sex Work, My Sole Aim Is To Give Them A Happy Life

“I was 21 and in Hyderabad for the field work of my dissertation. I wanted to work for the street children. But soon, I came across a group of women who were being harassed by the police. They were just standing there wearing a saree and a gajra (garland), I thought — why were they being harassed? I was about to know very soon.

I went back to the NGO I was working with closely at that point in time and asked them if there was something that could be done to help the women. First they laughed and then they mocked me — how could I not know that these women were of ‘loose character’ and that they literally invited this treatment!

Yes, these women were working as sex workers. But what I didn’t understand then at 21 is something I still can’t wrap my head around — why is it that people think sex workers don’t need help? Police harassment, negative media portrayal and unwilling landlords when looking for a place to live, are some of the issues sex workers in India have to deal with. Along with them, they hardly had any awareness about HIV/AIDS. The sex workers and their children suffer in silence.

When I saw no one coming forward to help them, I took up the responsibility myself. It was difficult and although I had my partner beside me, I was unable to gain the trust of sex workers for the longest time. It was only after I met Jayamma, a then-sex worker that I could start working for them. From the period 1998–2001, Jayamma visited rural self-help groups.

On 1st December 2001 (World Aids Day), Jayamma and around 300 women took out a rally, with a banner that read ‘Chaithanya Mahila Mandali’, an initiative for the betterment of the life of sex workers and their children in Hyderabad.

She has been a force to reckon with. It is because of her that I have been able to learn so much about these children who need our help. Through this initiative, more than 5000 women and children are being supported.

These kids have seen the seamy side of life, some have been even forced into sex work. My sole aim is to give them a life that they deserve — away from the stigma and discrimination.”

-Jaya Singh Thomas, General Secretary, Chaithanya Mahila Mandali.

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