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Social Distancing and Sex Workers in India

The deplorable condition of sex workers in India amidst the COVID-19 lockdown is discussed. Prostitution, now called sex work, has been a historical reality with cultural connotations. However, a significant amount of shame and stigma is attached to the profession wherein it is not even seen as work. Social distancing and the lockdown have left sex workers across the country in poverty and hunger. There is a need to address the issues of this section of the society from a human rights’ perspective.

With an intention to break the chain of the novel coronavirus spread in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the “Janata Curfew” on 22 March 2020, coupled with a complete nationwide lockdown from 24 March 2020. Even though the nation is in the unlocking phase now, the lockdown in India has disproportionately affected various sections/classes of the society.

While the comparatively rich and privileged class can afford to be locked down, it is primarily the poor and the vulnerable that have been driven by the distress of survival. Diseases and disasters may not differentiate much while infecting human bodies, but the uneven social structures do render non-uniformity of pandemic impacts upon people, and this has already been witnessed in the recent past during epidemics across developing nations, like the crises of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in 1999, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the major spread of Zika in 2016, and others. The present pandemic of COVID-19, particularly in India, allows a revisiting of those grim realities where the poor and the marginalised sections suffered, being denied of their rights and entitlements amidst a crisis.

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Updated On : 3rd Aug, 2020

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