Kolkata sex workers pledge to donate bodies after death

Kolkata sex workers pledge to donate bodies after death

An estimate suggests that around 500-600 people donate their bodies annually

Samaita Jana and Shyamal Chatterji at the street-corner pledge camp. Credit: DH Photo

Ganadarpan, a voluntary organisation, has been persuading people since the 80s to donate bodies and organs after death. The organisation on Saturday held a street corner meet in Kolkata’s Sonagachi locality to reach out to sex workers, persuading them to volunteer for the cause. “Around 12-15 pledged to donate,” confirmed a volunteer, and there could be more donors in future, as awareness grows.

Reaching out to a very marginalised and stigmatised section of society and to convince the individuals is a tough task. Shyamal Chatterji, secretary of Ganadarpan, and other volunteers of the organisation, however, have been persuading people for years to donate. “Our organisation works to enhance scientific awareness. Bodies after death are used in medical science, organs can save lives,” Chatterji told DH, at the street-corner meeting.

Ganadarpan began in 1986, and is the only of its kind solely active in this kind of campaign in the region. Chatterji claims that the organisation has played a vital role over the years. An estimate suggests that around 500-600 people donate their bodies annually. The organisation comprises 20-25 volunteers - otherwise in jobs, business, retirees - who travel to the districts and to states to raise awareness.

This programme, however, is unique, and has never been attempted before. These workers have remained on the society’s fringes, and are deprived of social rights. A meeting was organised earlier to generate awareness, and around 100 pledges were expected.

Samaita Jana, adviser, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, an organisation that facilitates health services and education for children in this community, said that as the campaign is for a cause, after an information session conducted last month, members were eager to sign up. Around 12-15 have pledged. “Our organisation works in such areas. With educators and clinics, we work on issues that concern the community,” Samaita said. Around 4,000 individuals are connected with the committee in Kolkata. The number of such workers is estimated to be much higher, when considered at the regional level.

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