Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A meaningful ‘war’

It was back in the first term at the ACJ that we were preparing our website on ‘Violence against Women’. I was working on a section called ‘Violence against Sex Workers’. To understand this complex reality, my friends and I had gone to the Indian Community Welfare Organisation, a group that works to spread HIV/AIDS awareness among sex workers. That was the first time I spoke to sex workers and got a harsh yet clear idea of their lives. Sunday [12th of March] was the second time.

I saw a play organized by SANGRAM [an NGO based in Sangli district in Maharashtra] at the Alliance Française in Chennai. Sangram works with sex workers and their children. It was once again an overwhelming experience…an interaction I thoroughly enjoyed.

The actors are none other than sex workers and their children who play themselves. The stories are all real…and so are their feelings. They played out a day from their lives: the lover of a prostitute who promises to marry her, the humiliation suffered by sex workers’ children in school, the harassment by the police, false assurances by local politicians and so on.

The play also shows the complexity of the relationship between the prostitute and her lover [the maalak]. It portrays how sex workers act as support systems for each other and how ‘normal’ their lives are. And of course, the viewer rejoices in the little celebrations the sex workers have every now and then.

The effort was mighty impressive considering that they performed in Hindi when none of them could speak the language until about two years ago. Some of the protagonists are illiterate, making it even more difficult for them to learn a new language. But they surmounted this obstacle, like they have surmounted every other in the course of their lives.

In the Q&A session, I was more than happy to ask them questions in Marathi. And they were just elated to hear someone speak their mother tongue in a not-so-Hindi-friendly Chennai! Their confidence and courage could put anyone to shame. They were eager to speak and share their experiences with a hope to change people’s perception of them. They succeeded when newspapers in Sangli like Pudhari and Lokmat, which had written objectionable stories about them, changed their reports to positive and inspiring ones.

I would like to write more about them and the immense strength of their characters but this one is a must-see for everybody. They perform next in Mumbai and Bangalore.

Watch out for news about a meaningful ‘war’…a Sangram that is changing their lives and our perceptions.


Anonymous Gina said...

Hi there!

I'm also a Rohekar, but my family has moved from India to Canada (I was born and raised in Canada). I imagine we are related . . . it would be fun to learn more about you!

I discovered your name while "Google-ing" mine!


4:31 PM  
Blogger Jemima said...

hey Gina!!! maybe we are related! it would be great to get in touch with u! u cud mail me at this highly embarassing e-mail id-
till later...

8:12 PM  
Blogger arunima said...

hey jemima,
visited the lady with multiple disorder after a long time and discovered dat she still writes about womens issues passionately while i shamelessly and stupididly talk about trivial things like ETs. great to read ur pieces again. looking forward for more..

7:31 AM  

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