New Delhi, Feb 7: After being "let down" by previous governments, sex workers living in Delhi's infamous GB Road red-light district on Saturday said they voted for change, hoping the new government would focus on legalisation relating to the profession and the education of their children.
"Many governments have come and gone but they haven't made any difference to our lives. We still face social stigma which has made our lives miserable," Nasreen,
who also works for the Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha, an organisation that works for the rights of the sex workers, told IANS.
"We are still fighting for our rights, which includes adequate remuneration, minus the money deducted by brothel owners. These owners still take their share and we end up getting nothing," Nasreen, who lives in one of the 100-odd brothels, added.
There are over 4,000 sex workers who live and operate out of cramped rooms above a thriving wholesale hardware market in central Delhi.
These women came out in groups of friends and families and cast their ballots at polling booths in the Chandni Chowk constituency's Ajmeri Gate and Ballimaran area,
This year, around 1,500 sex workers have enrolled as voters.
Eighty-year-old Amina Begum, who claims she is the oldest sex worker, wants a "pucca house" for women like her, who are old, infirm and have no earning.
"There are many old women, who have long left their work and are living in near-by areas with their families, and need proper houses along with other facilities that are provided to other citizens," Amina told IANS.
It was in 2008 when the sex workers first started voting thanks to their consolidation by the Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Sabha, Amina added.
Sabrina, 19, a first-time voter, felt legalisation on the profession would save them from unnecessary insults hurled at them every now and then.
"I was not forced into this profession, this was a choice I made. But people don't understand this and look down upon me. This attitude has to change so that we (the community) are not treated differently," Sabrina told IANS.
"This can happen only when the government makes sincere efforts to work for our upliftment," she added.
However, Poonam, a mother of two, was concerned about her children's education and hoped they do not end up living a life of abuse and darkness - like her.
"I have always supported the Congress, but it seems I am an invisible voter whose voice doesn't reach the concerned ears. So, this time I have voted for the AAP with the hope that they would do something - if not for us, at least our children," the 35-year-old Poonam told IANS.
Similar concerns were shared by Aishya, who had previously voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "It is high time we get an honest and a stable government," she told IANS, after casting her vote.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)