Telangana: Fly-by-night soliciting put women in misery

Women at highways are at risk, physically and safety wise.

Hyderabad: Last year, Tandur police of Ranga Reddy district, found a fully burnt female body near the north wall of the Rudra Bhoomi graveyard. Cops suspected that the 35 year-old-woman was burnt alive by assailants. The police investigation into the murder later revealed another story. The dead woman was a sex worker who worked on the roads near a truck terminal. This brings to light the lives of some of the poor women in the villages near the truck terminals who look at soliciting as a source of earning income for their families. They put themselves at risk both health-wise as well as safety-wise as this kind of soliciting fly-by-night truck drivers expose them to other physical dangers too.

Young women from poor families wait at national highways and major truck terminals and parking areas for the truck drivers to pick them up. Trucks coming from various states like Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu Karnataka, Maharash-tra, Madhya Pradesh, Ut-tar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and AP halt at the terminals and parking areas in various districts and take the 'services' of these women. The dead victim was a sex worker whose clients were the truck drivers.

“The truck terminal in Tandur spreads across some four acres and more than a hundred trucks from other states halt there every day. Women sex workers from nearby villages wait on the road looking for clients. Tandur police often intervenes, arrests and later rehabilitates these women,” said a senior police official from Ranga Reddy.

Trucks traffic is high in Tandur. Incidences of soliciting is also common. Similarly Suryapet of Nalgonda, Sanga Reddy Medak, Adilabad, Khammam and Niza-mabad are also places that fall on the national highways’ routes and here too poor village women opt for this method to earn money.

“When we find the sex workers on the roads, we usually let them off with a warning. If they repeat the offence, we book a case for creating public nuisance,” an official from Miryalaguda subdivision of Nalgonda police said.

According to a data released by National Aids Control Society, HIV positivity was high amongst female sex workers in Medak district. A significant number of women, who were caught by the police during raids were diagnosed with various Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Nearly 12 per cent of the sex workers were tested HIV positive.

Due to lack of awareness about safe sex, many sex workers do not use protection. The State AIDS Control Society has link groups functioning in districts in order to create awareness about STDs and safe sex. Since these women are not part of organised sex workers, often the awareness programmes do not reach them.

No rehab for victims in Telangana
Most women sex workers in the state villages are victims of sexual and economic exploitation. A majority of these women are abandoned by their families or deserted by their husbands. They have no other ways to earn money for their livelihood. Their earnings through soliciting is meager too.

“The women, who choose this path, face physical and social exclusion. Most of them are abandoned by their families. In Tandur’s case, the victim was deserted by her husband. Her son stays in a government run orphanage in Hyderabad,” said a police official from Ranga Reddy.

On an average, the women make Rs 20 upwards per client. Rs 300 would be the maximum she would be paid and that too is a rarity. Some-times the woman is thrown out of the truck without being paid too. “There are some cruel people out there who do not pay. We cannot complain to anybody since what we are doing is not legal. On an average, in this area, a woman sex worker makes 200 or so in a day,” said Meena, a 38-year-old sex worker from Suryapet.

Unlike sex workers who operate out of a brothel, where an erring client can be brought to book, a sex worker whose clients are men who may never be traced, runs the risk of physical danger. Many women get abused, a few go missing.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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