Sex worker’s daughter brings safety, education, insurance to red-light area

There was a time she had to hide her identity to pursue schooling, but she is now not only looked up to by the sex workers she fights for but is also respected by the common public and the government. Today, she proudly calls herself the "daughter of a red-light area".

Nasima, 28, a social activist from Muzaffarpur's red-light area — Chaturbhuj Sthan — fought with pimps, police and clerics to convince them that concerted development and special programmes, not "ineffective" government rehabilitation, was the solution to prostitution. First, it was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who gave her a patient hearing during last year's Vikas Yatra in Sitamarhi. Now, the state government's Women Development Corporation (WDC) has accepted her model "Hamari Awaz" to conduct surveys in the red-light areas of Sitamarhi, Betiah, Kisanganj and Saharsa. Bihar has over 25 red-light areas, home to over 1.5 lakh people of which 60,000 are voters.

"We have got Delhi's C-Voter to ask people living in red-light areas realistic questions on health, livelihood, job opportunities and special education projects," says Nasima, whose voluntary organisation, Parcham, has already conducted a sample survey in these areas.

Nasima's concept proposes government welfare projects for sex-workers and their children. She said there was a time a sex-worker used to pay Rs 2,000-3,000 commission to the police to carry on with her illegal trade at Chaturbhuj Sthan. But thanks to her efforts, now every household in the area has phone numbers of all top police officers to lodge any complaint.

Last June, Nasima got IGNOU to open a "special study centre" at her house at Shukla Road — right in the middle of a red-light area. A six-month preparatory course for a Bachelor's degree allows even school dropouts to get set for a college education. Nasima, who had discontinued her education after matriculation 10 years ago, is also doing the course.

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