Sex Workers March on May Day in India


Sex workers from Kolkata took to the streets in their dozens to demand the legalization of the world’s oldest profession on International Labor Day.  Sonagachi is the biggest red light district in Kolkata and one of the largest in Asia.

Around 500 sex workers took part in the march, which was organized by a self-help group for the workers.

“May Day is Labor Day.  Sex workers are laborers, and sex work is just like any other profession.  It should be considered as a profession and not viewed in any other way.”

The women also called for changes to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, a 50-year-old law which they say restricts them from earning a living.

“I am a sex worker, and the rights of sex workers should be represented in the parliament and the state assembly.  We want to get registered as well.  I want the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act discarded.”

It might be illegal, but prostitution is a thriving business in many cities across India.  There are around 15,000 sex workers in Sonagachi alone, and voluntary groups estimate there are around 2 million female sex workers in the country, most of them trafficked or forced into the work by poverty.

This video was brought online by Reuters on 1 May 2009.