Mental health database for Sonagachi sex workers 

A conference of sex workers of Sonagacghi organised by Durbar. DH Photo

In a unique initiative an organisation of sex workers of Kolkata’s Sonagachi (the largest red light district in South Asia) will set up a comprehensive database of the mental condition of sex workers.

The initiative by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, the largest organisation of sex workers in Sonagachi is aimed at curbing cases of severe psychological trauma among sex workers.

“Durbar has set up a seven-member committee for the task. The committee members have received training on how to trace the cause of mental trauma through conversation,” Bharati Dey, the mentor of Durbar told DH.

The database will be prepared by conducting one on one interviews of nearly 11,000 sex workers of Sonagachi. According to the Durbar leadership, the sex workers often face depression due to sexual abuse from their family members during childhood. They also said that the concerned sex workers are often not comfortable about revealing the cause of their trauma when asked about it directly.

“If not addressed the trauma often results in severe depression which ruins the lives and livelihood of these sex workers,” said Dey.

Durbar has found a rather innovative way to ensure that the sex workers suffering from depression open up about their ordeal. All the seven members of the committee set up for the task are also sex workers and hence the affected sex workers will be more comfortable in speaking to them.

As for the key reason behind the depression of sex workers, the Durbar leadership said that majority of them live in constant fear of social boycott, financial crisis and often suffer from acute inferiority complex.

However, the leadership of Durbar which had earlier taken up initiatives such as prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and other health issues among sex workers admitted that preparing a mental health database of about 11,000 sex workers will be a daunting task.

“The project has just started and we are yet to get an estimate of how long it will take to complete the task,” said Dey.

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Mental health database for Sonagachi sex workers 

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