Death of a ‘Peer’ brings conviction among sex workers of ‘Chaitanya Mahila Mandali’

Chaitanya Mahila Mandali (CMM) is a CBO of Female Sex Workers (FSW) based at Hyderabad implementing Targeted Intervention with sex workers. In one of the visits, Ms.Sunitha, Peer Educator (PE) shares how death of a peer brought conviction among the CBO members to grow as a strong force with visitors who have come to learn from them.


Rani, FSW based at Hyderabad caters to high end clients in the city and makes reasonably good money. Sunitha, PE working in CMM provides her basic services necessary to help Rani protect her self from STI, HIV infection. One day Sunitha happens to see Rani with a client at  a hotel in her routine outreach visit. Rani said hello to Sunitha and moved away with a client in a hurry. Sunitha surprised by peculiar behaviour of Rani gets suspicious and makes a call in the evening. Rani said she is at a temple town 80 kms away from Hyderabad with the client and kept the phone.   


Still concerned about the peculiar nature of Rani, Sunitha calls her on the next day morning. This time call was picked up by a male person. When enquired how he got this mobile he stated that he got this mobile in the bus. Sunitha with a worry about Rani enquired a police she new in the temple town. Police helped Sunitha with the contact number of the Sub Inspector (SI) of the temple town. SI after verifying details informed her that a dead body of the lady was found in the lodge at the temple town. Sunitha was dumbstruck and started shivering knowing this. After some time she called the President of CMM and informed her about the incident. Sunitha along with President and few members rushed to the temple town and identified the dead body of Rani. Even before they recovered from the shock, SI started interrogating Sunitha why she called her in the previous night and how she knew Rani. She went through a horrible time with the interrogation.


After all the formalities of post martum, Sunitha along with a few friends from CMM took the dead body of Rani to her native place which is about 400 kms away from the temple town. She was further shocked to see the kind of ill-treatment Rani’s sons and relatives shown with them. They reprimanded Sunitha saying that she should have thrown her body some where. Finally they completed the funeral rites in a hurry before the dawn with least respect to her mother who fed them, educated them by selling her flesh. They were filled with hatred and have forgotten to show gratitude to her mother who sold her flesh for the future of their children. Sunitha felt sorry to have taken Rani’s dead body to her native place.


Members of CMM learnt many lessons from this incident. Sunita and her friends started reflecting and relating this incident with their own lives. The ill treatment and pathetic response from the family members brought strong conviction among the members of CMM to fight for the dignity and self respect of sex workers. Under the leadership of the able President, Sunitha lodged complaint and supported police in identifying the culprit and putting him behind the bars. The battle to book the culprit is still on and CMM is united to fight for the justice to help Rani’s soul rest in peace. Since then CMM has shouldered the responsibility to do the funeral rites of sex workers shunned away the family members.


(CMM is now a learning site in Andhra Pradesh for demonstrating the best practices of CBO strengthening processes)

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Comment by Sandhya Saxena on January 25, 2011 at 2:14pm

Dear Anthony,

Thanks for the blog. It is really heart touching and depicts the reality. I think this way community can be motivated, inspired and can be made aware to aknowldge the plight of sex workers.  CMM is doing incredible work by addressing the grave issue of dignity and self respect of sex workers.  Hats off to Sunita for her courage and on-going fight to book the culprits.  It is a big lesson learnt. 


Sandhya, India 

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on January 22, 2011 at 3:07pm

Dear Anthony,


The hassle of getting into police investigations did not deter Sunitha. She set a fine example of courage and conviction for the sex worker community. We have a similar example from a village in Nagaland where the village community agreed to  perform the funeral of PLHIV or drug users if the family was not able to afford it or was not willing to do so. Thanks for the blog.




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