Monday, October 18

In a first, sex workers in West Bengal vote for welfare body members

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The sex workers of Sonagachhi, Bowbazar, Chetla, Kalighat and Kidderpore as well as those from the districts voted for the first time in the branch committee elections of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, an organization that works for their health, security and rights.

Advocacy officer Mahasweta Mukherjee said, “This is the first time they are choosing their representatives in a democratic way. The election has been carried out in ballot papers to maintain transparency.” The election was carried out in 45 branches all over the state, keeping the model similar to the country’s electoral system. An election commission comprising a 12-member team was formed to supervise the entire process, from nomination filing, campaigning to voting. The candidates were asked to abide by a few rules and regulations. An observer’s committee, including people who are not part of Durbar, was also set up to keep an eye on the voting procedure on the polling days.

The election took place for four posts like secretary, president, treasurer and representative. For each post, there were four to five candidates. “It is a positive sign that sex workers are coming out to contest elections as well as choosing their representatives by voting. The turnout was remarkable this year and it reflects that they are socially aware of their rights and are prepared to fight for it,” said Uttam Maity, part of the election commission. He added that symbols like diya, bus, cup, trees and kite were chosen by the candidates themselves.

Kajal Bose, who contested for the post of representative from ‘Palatak’ in Sonagachhi, said, “As more sex workers are participating in the voting process, the importance of a collective organization to ensure their rights is gaining momentum.” Gita Karmakar contested from Rambagan for the president’s post said, “For years we have been deprived of our basic rights. There is a stigma attached to our profession but it is high time we fight for our rights.”

From all over the state 138 members were elected in the branch committee elections, out of which 45 of them (mainly based in Kolkata) will contest for the Central executive body elections on July 31.

 

Source: Times of India

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