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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
India's new pioneers: Sex worker activist
Ram Prakash Rai
Ram Prakash Rai aims to challenge public attitudes
As part of BBC's India Week, the BBC News website spoke to four people who are pushing the boundaries with their chosen careers.

Ram Prakash Rai works for Savera, an organisation which battles to improve conditions for sex workers on the streets of Delhi.

I work around the red light district in Delhi. It houses about 120 brothels.

Only when I first visited this area did I understand the truly terrible problems sex workers contend with: HIV, poverty, discrimination.

I spend my week working to help these women stand on their own two feet
These women have no hope. They have no knowledge about their rights or what life could hold for them.

One of our biggest challenges is overcoming public attitudes. Most people call these women the dregs of society.

They don't realise that sex workers do not choose their profession. They resort to this work in the absence of employment. Sometimes they are sold into the sex trade by their own family members or even by their lovers.

Even if they manage to escape this cycle, these women cannot go back to their homes as nobody is willing to accept them.

So they have no option but to stay in the only community that accepts them.

Without knowledge or education, these women cannot be independent. I spend my week working to help them stand on their own two feet.

Vocational training

A brothel in Delhi
An activist from Savera talks to sex workers in a Delhi brothel
From about the age of 35, sex workers have no capacity to earn.

So we provide vocational training for older women such as candle making and computer education. We motivate them to start their own small businesses. Some of them become activists.

I help individual brothels when they get trouble from hooligans, or sometimes even from the police. We meet the local constables and try to negotiate solutions.

Senior officers are co-operative and they realise the difficult situation these women are in, but many of the constables tend to blame local problems on them as men come to the area to drink and visit brothels.

Every Saturday, we meet with sex worker activists to find out about how their week has gone, about their children's development.

We have become very close to the activists and the workers. They are good women and our relationship is like that of brother and sister. We celebrate festivals together.

But, most importantly, we treat these women like human beings.


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