The state government is mulling the formulation of a policy to rehabilitate commercial sex workers across the state. There are nearly 10,000 commercial sex workers in different hilly towns of the state.
“There is a proposal for bringing in a policy to rehabilitate sex workers,” health minister Kaul Singh Thakur told Hindustan Times here on Sunday. “We will study the pattern adopted by foreign countries like Denmark and Sweden to rehabilitate the commercial sex workers,” said Thakur, adding that in both the countries, there are special cells in different towns to counsel the workers.
The health department has proposed to set up counselling centres at district hospitals for sex workers . “These centres will function alongside drug rehabilitation centres in the district hospitals,” disclosed Thakur.
Besides counselling centres, the department will also establish toll-free helpline for the workers wanting counselling to get back into the mainstream.
However, the department, in collaboration with the department of technical education, has already provided vocational training in different trades to about 500 sex workers. The government initiative to discourage flesh trade in the state has seemingly caught attention of the workers as there is growing demand to provide vocational training to sex workers in various districts of the state.
The number of sex workers is greater in industrial towns of Nalagarh, Baddi, Barotiwala, Poanta Sahib. However, the flesh trade is flourishing in main tourist towns of Shimla, Manali, Kullu, Dharamshala and Chamba. The population of sex workers has also risen in the areas like Darlaghat and Barmana in Bilaspur district.
The health department had mapped the area with commercial sex workers in 2009. The population of such workers at that time was pegged at around 10,000
The department of social justice and empowerment in 2011 launched the Vishesh Mahila Uthaan Yojana to provide vocational training to these women, majority of whom have been forced into the trade due to poverty.
Ever since the project was launched, 472 women have been imparted training in garment-making, beauty culture, sewing and computer applications at five ITIs in Dharamsala, Gangath (Kangra), Solan, Shamshi (Kullu) and Nahan (Sirmour).
A sum of Rs 1.56 crore has been earmarked for the scheme, out of which a sum of Rs 93.74 lakh has been spent on training women during this financial year. Women are provided a monthly stipend of Rs 3,000 besides training which is totally free. The course duration ranges from three months to one year for different trades.