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Note ban impact: Sex workers coping with low footfall, rate cuts

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Activists, sociologists slam minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s remarks, accuse him of being insensitive to the plight of thousands of sex workers.

New Delhi: Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s comment that “flesh trade has nosedived in India” after demonetisation has drawn sharp criticism from activists and sociologists who accuse him of being insensitive to the plight of thousands of sex workers hit hard by the note ban move.

“Due to the flesh trade, a huge amount of cash used to flow to Nepal and Bangladesh…Notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 (now junked) were used to make payments in the flesh trade, which has now come down,” Prasad had told reporters in Bhopal a day before the 8 November anniversary of demonetisation.

Sex workers in two brothels on GB Road, Delhi’s red light area, claimed that demonetisation had a negative impact on their business as footfalls have declined. They said nothing had picked up even a year after the implementation of note ban and they had been pushed to the brink.

“Look at the empty streets now. Before demonetisation, they were brimming with people,” a police officer told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

The scrapping of old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes has hit the daily earnings of many as they had to accept whatever their client would give them.

“Initially I slashed my rates because no one had change for a Rs 2,000 note, so they gave me whatever change they have in their pocket,” said Kiran Deshmukh, Coordinator, National Network of Sex Workers.

Though Kiran’s clientele belonged to low-income groups, a high-profile online escort service owner reiterated her woes saying they too had to reduce their rates from Rs 25,000 to Rs 15,000 and only get “cheap quality customers now”.

Adding to the woes of many were the old currency notes that they had saved prior to the government’s announcement. Those without bank accounts either lost their money altogether or exchanged them through pimps at a cost.

However, a member of Kat Katha, an NGO that works with sex workers, said that she wasn’t sure if the footfall had reduced primarily because of demonetisation or there are other reasons behind it.

Some others claimed that their personal equation with their clients helped them guard their business against a sharp fall.

Most of the women, however, clarify that they were sticking to the profession in the absence of an alternative livelihood. Some said they had to send money home and put their children through school.

“We have accepted our fate and are learning to be content with whatever little we make,” said Noora, another sex worker on GB Road.

Taking a strong exception to the Prasad’s remark, sociologists said it reveals the moralistic attitude of the minister.

“Demonetisation has negatively impacted those involved in the business and Ravi Shankar Prasad’s comment reveals the moralistic attitude of the politician. Why did he feel the need to comment on prostitution? One must ask,” said Gaurang Jani, a sociology professor at Gujarat University, who works with sex workers.

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  1. The babus in government offices have raised their rates.
    Bribes demanded by tax officers have gone up 120%.
    Bribes paid to bank manager have gone up 75%

    Does Mr. Prasad care to comment about that? Or is the only field he knows about in great detail is sex work?

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