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Sex workers at GB Road stare at a harrowing wait for the pandemic to end

Sex workers at GB Road stare at a harrowing wait for the pandemic to end
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new delhi: The situation for sex workers in Delhi's red-light area remains grim - seven months after the COVID-19 outbreak in the Capital - as a sharp drop in clients has created a huge financial burden on the already struggling women. Delhi's GB Road houses more than 1,200 sex workers, of which more than half the women have already left for their hometown.

Bindu (50) (name changed) sits in her small room, placed above the brothel where she works. Post-lockdown, the business has been zero, however, the women continue to struggle even as the city has reopened. "We hardly earn Rs 200 or so as clients don't come here anymore. I was sitting for one whole day and managed to get just two clients," she said.

Most sex workers are scared to talk as they say the police harass them if they speak to the media. "We are living in deplorable conditions and COVID-19 pandemic has changed things for the worse. We have no money but earn enough to manage food for our children," she added.

Arzoo (45) (name changed) has two daughters, both have medical conditions, but due to financial strain, she has not been able to go to a hospital. "The hospital bills are so huge; I am not able to manage. I was supposed to get the children checked but after the lockdown, it got even more difficult," she added. For Sonia, money has become a major concern. "I used to earn Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 per day, but it has come down to Rs 300 to Rs 400," she said.

Sonia (40) who wants to leave the business is desperately asking the government for a house. A mother of seven daughters, Sonia has no other place to go. "After COVID-19, things are even worse. We have given papers to the authorities for a house but have still not received a reply," she said. The women claimed that there have been no COVID-19 cases in the vicinity. "We used to get checked regularly back in June but in the last one month we have not been tested," she added.

Most of the women come from West Bengal, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. In most situations, they were abandoned by their husbands and had no other mode of income, which is why they came here. A majority claimed that they were not forced into the profession but given a choice would leave the profession.

Abha (38) (name changed) who hails from Kolkata brought in a client after hours of waiting. "I have been standing for a client since 8 am in the morning and this is my first client," she said. As soon as he left, the room was sanitised. "We are taking all precautions but most of the women are too scared to start working again as well," she added.

As people try to revive their businesses, sex workers at GB Road sit in uncertainty, struggling with basic necessities and an unstable future.

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