Feeling ignored and cheated by the political parties, the sex workers living in the red light area of the city have extended their support to the Congress party. Earlier, they had decided to boycott the election.
As has been observed, when the political parties outline their manifestos, they try to promise sops to almost every section of the society but election after election, they forget one small section and that is the women living in the red light areas. The plight of these women never catches the attention of the political parties and their candidates.
Piqued by this, the women of the red light area of Meerut this time had decided to boycott the Lok Sabha elections. But when a group of Mahila Congress leaders approached them to vote in the favour of their party, they were moved and decided to vote for the Congress this time.
“In the election we are never approached by political parties. But this time the Congress women came to us and we decided to support them,” said Sherry (changed name), a sex worker living in the red light area here. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election we had voted for BJP but they did nothing for us, she said adding that they are considered untouchables by politicians. We are happy that someone had come to us and promised to help us, she added.
There are a little over 800 votes in the red light area here. When the campaign is carried out by the administration, stressing on the need to vote, there is hardly anyone who approaches these women, said a local.
Not only are they ignored by the political parties they also face difficulty in voting, said Atul Sharma, President of Sankalp NGO which is working for the sex workers for the last 23 years. Unlike other voters who are given voter slips by workers of different political parties in the contest, these women do not even get the slips. At times, they are even deprived of their right to vote, she quipped.
The sex workers have to struggle for survival in their day to day lives and also face harassment by the police from time to time. But no one is ready to take care of them, said Atul adding that somehow they had managed to get them the ration cards and voter ids but they are not able to use them as they constantly live with the social taboo.
“We have our issues and problems but there is none who wants to extend a helping hand to us,” said Priya (changed name). We want people to talk about our rehabilitation, she said adding that all of them want their children to study but are not allowed to with other children so we want political parties to provide a separate school for our children.
“In our day to day lives we face difficulties and are treated badly by police but who would help us considering that we are also women,” said Sunita (changed name), asserting that she is happy that this group of women had come to them and made promises.
Some Mahila Congress leaders, led by Chief of Uttar Pradesh Mahila Congress Preeti Tiwari, had come to campaign for their party candidate Harendra Aggarwal in the red light area.
“I clearly told them that when their parties are not considering us important then why will they consider us women at all,” said Chandni (changed name) questioning the political parties for not providing tickets to enough women. Chandni, who is almost 50, has witnessed many elections but nothing has changed for them.
Mahila Congress leader Tiwari, however, had promised to return to them and work for them. She said that she will definitely come here with the National Women Congress president and try to help them in any way possible.