Sex Workers Deserve Respect And Empathy

I haven’t been active on Twitter lately for self-preservation. Even when I open the app, I skim through the feed with a brisk stroke of my thumb. But a recent top trending hashtag on Twitter hit too close to home and I felt compelled to dig further.

A tweet from Dhanya Rajendran, Journalist and Editor-In-Chief of The News Minute, intrigued me. She mentioned a distasteful trending hashtag and called out Twitter India on allowing such malicious content to trend on their platform.

This prompted me to go and check what this was all about. I discovered that the top trending hashtag was one which called a top Tamil actor ‘the son of a prostitute.’ And I was absolutely clueless about where this came from. Baffled and befuddled, I tried to trace the origin of this hashtag only to discover that this was a result of “fan wars.” Fans of the Tamil film actor Vijay put every ounce of effort to spotlight this trend as a means to seek ‘revenge’ on the other team of fans.

Now, I have absolutely no idea about the body of work of the actors involved. However, the hashtag made my hackles rise because it stems from the mindset that it is shameful to be the son of a sex worker.

If you are also someone who condones this thinking and falls in the same bracket as those trending this hashtag, then this post is definitely for you. I have interacted with sex workers as I have been involved in the rehabilitation of human trafficking survivors. I have also known some of the children of sex workers. I have seen from close quarters how society demeans and shuns them. The stories I heard will numb your senses and punch your gut. What you cannot even get yourself to stomach is what they go through on a day-to-day basis. Yes, what you watch in movies or read in books is their reality. In India, a majority of the sex workers are forced into this profession which is why institutionalised sex work and brothels are illegal. Even if they do this out of their own will, it is a profession like any other and does not make them any less human.

But you know what? None of whatever I have written above matters. Because none of these should be a justification for asking for basic respect. Ideally, this respect shouldn’t be demanded because it is deserved. But your shallow and misogynistic mentality will never care to see that.

There is no shame in taking money for sex and related services.

Shame is in hiding behind curtains and relishing porn. And then going on to shame the same women you enjoyed watching.

Shame is in visiting a sex worker discreetly and ridiculing the business to maintain your ‘sanskaari‘ facade for the world.

Shame is in reducing a woman to her vagina and judging her for her choices or the lack of them.

Shame is in attacking a woman to put down her son just for sadistic pleasure or to win arguments.

Shame is in shaming the woman who caters to demand but walking shoulder to shoulder with the ones who create this demand.

If sex workers make you so uncomfortable, please question the men who go to them in the first place. Why should the men get away without being held responsible? And why should only the woman become a hashtag? Why shouldn’t the entire rotten system be questioned?

Do you even know about the pathetic living conditions of the sex workers at brothels? They don’t even have basic rights or medical facilities, and the Government support has also always been abysmal in this area. If you are so stirred with just the thought of sex trade, get into the grime and work with those who have been contributing to tackling this menace. There are enough organizations doing incredible work to help improve the quality of life of sex workers as well as to bust the human trafficking nexus.

But you will not do this, because reforms don’t come from a place of apathy. Because trending a hashtag is easier than coming out of your privileged bubble.

The shame is not on HER. The shame is on YOU.

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