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HindustanTimes Tue,22 Jul 2014

Delhi's GB Road sex workers come out of closet to vote

Subuhi Parvez, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, April 11, 2014
First Published: 13:05 IST(11/4/2014) | Last Updated: 15:17 IST(11/4/2014)

At GB Road's Zeenat Mahal School, a police constable stood waiting at the gate holding a shiny metal detector in his hand. The polling staff inside stole moments sipping cups of tea. Very few voters had turned up by noon.

Across the road, women peeped through pigeonholes and tiny windows, some shouting at passing men, wooing them to come inside.

"Come here, come to me," whooped Pooja from the window of a rundown building, inviting a shabbily dressed man upstairs - into her brothel.

The polling day seemed to have no bearings here but the sex workers were in full attendance at the infamous GB Road, Delhi's red light street.

The area, which comes under Chandi Chowk constituency, saw a visible number of prostitutes coming out of their private spaces and taking time out to exercise their right. 

Polling booth on GB Road (Bapi Ghosh/HT Photo)


Even though no party has ever asked them to vote and they refuse to give reasons for their preferences, they continue to punch. They are aghast.

Pooja, a sex worker, has been living in GB Road neighborhood for 25 years, who never give polls a miss. She claimed that she votes in all elections and always votes for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress.
 
"I have no problems what so ever. I don't crave for a better house. Why will I expect a house here? I will get old soon and the moment my kids grow up, I am going to move out. Who is here for a lifetime? she said, refusing to give us a reason for her choice.
 
 The 40-year-old has given up on the ministers, who seem to make fake promises and then never deliver.  "I haven't seen any minister coming here for campaigning or even asking us what we want. For me, Panja (Congress) and Bhagva (BJP) are the same," Pooja grins.

Like many of them, she too, is educating her kids far from the city hoping that they would have decent jobs in hands soon. She knows she is in hell and prefer keeping it clandestine from her children.

The place has a strange smell to it which doesn't leave you until few hours. There are no kids to be seen. Lights are mostly out. It is just about noise and a very loud one.

The entrance of a brothel on GB Road (Bapi Ghosh/HT Photo)


In one of the dingy lanes, a house with green walls and dim lights was bustling. 35-year-old Champa, a sex worker, stood glued to her television set, watching Hindi news. 

"Yes, I have demands. We want a new house and respectable jobs. Will the government give it to us? Will they ever make this profession legal? No! They have never done anything for public, what will they do for randis (prostitutes)", she screamed.

"Let me tell you that we're doing social work by sexually satisfying people but sadly people look down upon us."

There was a tough, broken staircase to climb before we could reach Reshma, 30, who is also one of the 3,000 sex workers surviving here. The walls were almost as if they've never been painted.

Do you want these stairs to be fixed? we asked. To which she replied: "What? These stairs? They're perfect".

They don't see the problems. Many of them have adjusted well to the lifestyle.

Living in GB Road for ten years now, Reshma has casted her vote to AAP this time. She is looking forward to the newest party to take over.

"I want the area to be cleaned and nicely maintained. I also want this profession to be legalized. Congress has never done anything for us", she said.  "Having said that, no government will ever listen to us. There's only one god who listens".

Asad Azad, secretary of RWA, Farash Khana, hinted that most people in the area were backing the Arvind Kejriwal's AAP.

"This area has never seen much development. The key reason for people to vote here is the money they get from parties for canvassing. So it is manipulative," he said.


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