Members of an Indian Sect Vow to Save Sex Workers by Marrying Them

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

Young Hindu, Muslim and Sikh men have been queuing up at the Dera Sacha Sauda (Abode of the Real Deal) in the town of Sirsa as “wedding volunteers”. They say they are doing so to stop the women from being exploited in brothels. They also claim that their move is part of a campaign to stop the spread of the HIV/Aids virus.

That’s right. According to BBC, 1,000 men have already volunteered to marry sex workers who want to escape exploitative conditions. Nearly 100 young sex workers from Calcutta’s Shonagachi red light district to brothels in Delhi and Mumbai have contacted the Abode of the Real Deal (I’m sorry, but that name just really sounds like an R. Kelly track to me).
The guys quoted in the BBC piece seem sincerely interested in doing something useful with their privilege (of course, they don’t talk about it this way) and they also seem committed to marrying women who request that kind of help (i.e. respecting the women’s agency). The leader has been quoted widely as saying, “All women forced to live as prostitutes are my daughters.” I like the intention…i.e. to boldly claim that the exploitation of women is not just women’s problems, but of course it stinks of paternalism.
Why can’t the DSS pool their resources to help women who want to get out of their current situation, get the health care they need (HIV is rampant and untreated), and then make their own choices about what they’d like to do next with their lives?
Whether the sect actually will follow through with their promises is another story entirely. Buried within the BBC piece is this little tidbit of relevant information: “The sectarian violence that ensued across Punjab – as well as subsequent rape and murder charges brought against Ram Rahim Singh – have cast a shadow on the affairs and functioning of the DSS.” Not exactly a crew I’d want to trust to operate a women’s liberation movement.
For information on women liberating themselves, always a much sweeter prospect, I remind you of Lori’s great post last week.
Thanks to espergel for the heads up.

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