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As Pandemic Blocks Sex Workers' Income, Indian Court Asks States to Provide Free Rations

© AP Photo / Rafiq MaqboolAn Indian sex worker looks on outside her house at the Kamathipura red-light district, in Mumbai, India, Monday (File)
An Indian sex worker looks on outside her house at the Kamathipura red-light district, in Mumbai, India, Monday (File) - Sputnik International
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The lockdown declared in India to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in late March has left thousands of sex workers in the country without any income. These sex workers mainly depend on daily wage earners and as a result of the lockdown their clientele disappeared overnight.

Taking note of the distress faced by sex workers due to the ongoing pandemic, India’s top court on Tuesday directed states to provide dry rations to identified sex workers without insisting on proof of identity. The court wanted the state governments to file a reply within four weeks providing details about the number of beneficiaries of the instant order.

It has also asked the federal government if it could consider extending financial assistance to sex workers, like those granted to transgender individuals.

The ruling came after a petition filed by one of the oldest sex workers collectives highlighting the distress faced by sex workers because of the COVID pandemic.

The petition sought relief for sex workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of monthly dry rations, cash transfer to the tune of INR 5,000 (approximately $68 per month), additional financial support to the tune of INR 2,500 (US $34) for those with school-age children.

According to the National AIDS Control Organisation and Health Ministry, there are about 868,000 female sex workers and 40,000 transgenders involved in this profession in India.

Burdened by overdue loans and uncertain business, 90 percent of commercial sex workers in India’s major cities are now willing to take up alternative livelihood options, revealed a survey conducted by sex worker welfare NGO Asha Care Trust earlier this month.

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