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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Pakistani sex workers visit India
Indian sex worker surround their Pakistani counterpart Rani, seated centre
It is the first visit by Pakistani sex workers to India
A group of Pakistani sex workers have visited the red light district in the Indian city of Calcutta to discuss safe sex practices and combating Aids.

It is the first ever visit by Pakistani sex workers to any red light district in India.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta says over the last decade, sex workers there have formed a powerful organisation to protect their rights.

The have successfully improved their health standards.

They have also organised campaigns to raise awareness on preventing HIV/Aids.

The group of sex workers from the Pakistani city of Hyderabad visited Sonagachi - a sprawling red light district in north Calcutta.

"They have come to the right place because we are the most organised group of sex workers anywhere in Asia," Swapna Gayen, who heads the Calcutta sex workers' association, told the BBC.

Safe sex

They were briefed by local sex workers on how they have managed to combat sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

It was unbelievable to the delegation that Sonagachi's sex workers refuse sex without a condom
Majid Rani
Pakistani sex worker

"It was unbelievable to the delegation that Sonagachi's sex workers refuse sex without a condom even in the face of physical torture," Majid Rani, who led the Pakistani team, is quoted as saying by AFP.

She said this was unthinkable in Pakistan and sex workers there would often be forced to have sex without condoms.

The visiting Pakistani women also visited a creche for the children of sex workers and a consumer cooperative.

But Ms Gayen said they were particularly interested in brothel management and anti-Aids programmes.

Pakistan has 2,300 HIV-positive people, according to official figures.

But the World Health Organisation estimates that the figure could be closer to 80,000.

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