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How sex workers in Mumbai's Kamathipura are surviving through the coronavirus lockdown

With the coronavirus pandemic raging on, the livelihood of those living in Mumbai's sex district Kamathipura has come to a standstill. During the lockdown, women here have to provide for their children, without an active income and no government schemes.

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For decades, Mumbai's Kamatipura has been home to thousands of sex workers who were brought here from different parts of India and neighbouring countries, and today suffers from extremely poor sanitation among many other issues.

The residents live in very small rooms, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with the lockdown has put a stop to the daily income, leaving these women struggling for food, shelter, and earning a daily living for themselves and their children.

In an interview with Mumbai Live, one of the residents of Kamathipura said, "People are not able to leave Mumbai and that’s one of the problems they are facing. They do not have money and the government is not paying attention here. There is no food or milk for the children and we are getting help only when an NGO or social workers support."

Several helpless residents of Kamathipura said, "We ask money to feed our children and since we do not have money, how do we help? People here are not getting any support from the government and want to go back home. They don’t have insurance and the government is not looking after them. Moreover, the police don’t help, but beats them and asks them to leave. On TV, we see the government making promises to help the poor, but we have not got anything here. What do we do?"

In these tough times, these women have to rely on NGOs like NamMyoho Daan and other social workers to provide ration every few weeks. On one hand, they have to battle the social stigma, and on the other, during such times, they fight for basic needs to survive. 

With no money in hand, these residents are not able to pay rents. While some landlords understand the scenario, many often asked them to vacate the house or inform them that the amount would be deducted from the deposit. Worried about the life ahead, a resident said, "We will leave soon and will not come back again. What will we do living here? We don’t have any means to earn. What is the benefit of living here? Once we leave, we won’t return. For now, we will live for a few months, but then leave the city."

The future life and livelihood of the sex workers here in Mumbai's age-old locality of Kamathipura is under question. With social distancing becoming the new normal, it will be very difficult for the sex workers living here to get back to their normal life.

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