Connecting local responses around the world
As part of SALT visit, I had accompanied a group of sex workers to a village near 'Godavari River' at Rajamundry in Andhra Pradesh. We visited 'Meghamala Sangham' CBOof sex workers and a member of 'NARI SAKSHAM-a Federation of sex workers of CBOs. One of the sex workers facilitating SALT visit asked to share what they are proud of as Meghamala CBO. CBO members started telling an inspiring story. And the story is......
Lakshmi, a sex worker based at Yeluru town is practising sex work with a Madam in the town. Madam made her to work day and night and keep most of the earnings of Lakshmi with her, just like any brothel madam does. In the course of the time she became pregnant and gave birth to a male child. After an year brothel madam kept her son with her and sold Lakshmi to a brothel house in Mumbai. As an helpless woman she practiced sex work in the brothel house at Mumbai for about two years. Later a friend in the brothel house helped her to escape from there. She came back to 'Mandapeta' searching for her son with the help of one her relatives in the village.
She came to know about 'Meghamala Sangham' a CBO of sex workers in the village and told her story and sought help from CBO to get her son back from the clutches of a brothel madam in Yeluru Town. Members of 'Meghamala Sangham' immediately responded to the situation and travelled to Yeluru town to get Lakshmi's son. Brothel madam with the help of her rowdy sheeters threatened the sex workers to cut their throats. They have even beaten some of the sex workers and chased them away. CBO members came back and tried to lodge complaint in the police station. Police resisited to register the complaint and told them the case does not fall in their jurisdiction. They visited all the police stations in the town but experienced the response. At one point they approached the media for help but could not succeed. Members persevered the humiliation they faced and made another attempt to register the case.
This time they were lucky to get a good Sub Inspector who listened to their story and accompanied them to the house of brothel madam. Brothel madam asked them to compensate for upbringing the child. Lakshmi with CBO behind her boldly said you give all the money that I earned for you, when I was with you. CBO members negotiated and sorted out the issue in the presence of Sub Inspector and reunited the mother and the child.
Lakshmi lived with her son for about two years and passed away. Now the boy is taken care by Lakshmi's brother and is in the safe custody.
Truly it is one of the proudest moment of 'Meghamala Sangham'. Because they faced the challenge with grit, perseverence and took the beatings and threats of rowdy sheeters but did not get disheartened. They faced the challenge boldly and through this success story they won the confidence of Lakshmi and several other sex workers. Congratulations to 'Meghamala Sangham'. Keep doing the work.