Sex Workers Of DMSC Claim Their Bodies: Tale of The Night Fairies

Most of us picture prostitution as disrespectable and horrendous jobs. We often pity the sex workers and their lifestyle, almost believing them to be helpless and miserable, but as Ariana Grande says “God is a woman”, there are several sex workers who lead a respectable life. Sex workers are like every other feminists who fight for their basic human rights, so that they can be socially accepted and have claim over their own bodies.

Briarpatch Magazine

The formation of Organization for Sex workers

The word ‘Sex’ is still considered polluted and obscene even after it being directly significant to divinity and pleasure. Sex workers have thus come forward to safeguard the reputation of their occupation and demand their basic rights as the citizens of this country. Tales of the Night Fairies

One such organization is DMSC (Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee), an initiative that emerged from the Shonagachi HIV/AIDS Intervention Project, officially registered in the year 1995 continues to fight for discrimination of adult sex work social recognition and the right to form a trade union.

The DMSC was formed in a red light area of Calcutta, Sonagachi. But, with a narrow mindedness like in Indians just the formation of committee won’t help them with their fight against exploitation of sex workers. 

In a country like ours, maltreatment of women is justified in the name of culture and religion. One such challenging incident was faced by the DMSC members while protesting to get equal rights, where they were opposed by conservative people and their justification stating “When people cast aspersions on Sita maiya, Lord Rama sent her for a trial by fire. Those were the ideals of our culture, and now giving sex workers basic rights will only degrade those ideals.”


Plight of sex workers (before DMSC coming into the picture)

Discrimination against sex workers is not new to anyone, before the formation DMSC, the sex workers suffered in silence. Some of their plights were:

  1. Sex workers could not have claim over their bodies, as a result they were forced to sleep with every client, even if they did not want to. If they decline any offer, they were harassed by the Madam (the one who runs the brothel)
  2. They were not even in the position to say ‘no’ to any local man; who would not pay them for the act. This was because their job was considered obscene, and not payment-worthy.
  3. They couldn’t force the client to use condoms, as a result of this, they suffered from various Sexually Transmitted Diseases (of which AIDS remained the most common) and unwanted pregnancies.
  4. Of all the issues, their rift with police officers was the most concerning. There were a lot of instances where police officers would wrongly raid their red-light areas and arrest without warrant. They would themselves then physically assault the sex workers.
  5. Also the police officers refused to write FIR against those who raped sex workers, stating “Whores don’t get raped!!”

Sex Workers coming together (as DMSC) to bring positive changes:

The DMSC organization helped sex workers of Sonagachi to find their own voice and will to fight against the odds. Today, women have come forward to spread awareness against the exploitation of their bodies. After DMSC came into existence, sex workers have received several liberties such as:

  1. They can refuse to entertain men whom they do not want to, and the client cannot force himself on her.
  2. They can now choose not to sleep with men who cannot pay them for their services.
  3. Now they find themselves in the position to demand protected sex, where a client shall not be entertained without condom.
  4. The police officers are now bound to pay heed to their concerns and even register FIRs against people harassing them. 
  5. No police officer can arrest any sex worker from the red light area for no reason.
Source: Tales of the Night Fairies

Sex workers and their love for art “Komol Gandhar”

If you ask any DMSC sew worker about their favorites, they’ll answer- food, sex and nukad natak. Their love for art, music and dance is not only restricted to entertainment, but has its own motive as well. DMSC use the form of art, with their performing band titled “Komol Gandhar” to promote their organization and its cause among people and sex workers.

In March 2001, DMSC organized a sex workers’ carnival in Delhi. It was the first of its kind to be held in India. Even though initially they faced hatred and resistance from people who considered these carnival activities as filthy, yet the DMSC members were successful in carrying out their carnival. 

Since then they have managed to organize more such carnivals and successfully managed to make their message reach out to lakhs of people through music and art.


The DMSC sex workers are not afraid to confess liking their occupation; sex. DMSC has provided them confidence and stability to lead a secured life. 

  • The DMSC also works to stop human trafficking and illegal prostitution. In order to stop the entry of minor girls into the trade, the DMSC takes the charge to scrutinize the girls before they start work. If by chance they discover that a girl is below 18 years of age, they immediately take her back to her home and if the family has problems taking her back, the DMSC arranges for her to stay in a shelter.
  • DMSC does not only consist of female sex workers, but also male sex workers who are aware of safe-protected sex and use condoms while serving their clients.
  • The DMSC holds regular health camps for their sex workers’ health check. This makes them protected from STDs.

Cover illustration: NYC Red Net

Source : Tales of the Night Fairies  (Documentary : Tale Of the Night Fairies, 2003)


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