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Durga pujas for and by Kolkatas sex workers

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Two pujas in north Kolkata have been dedicated to the cause of sex workers. The firs one, by Ahiritola Jubakbrinda which has created a 300-feet-long graffiti on the street, dedicated to the rights of sex workers. Another one, an all-woman puja at Sonagachhi, the biggest red light area in the country, has been put up by sex workers.

Organisers of the first one – Ahiritola Jubakbrinda – decided to paint the world's first 300-feet-long street graffiti dedicated to sex workers. Artist Manas Roy, who conceptualised the project, said that sex workers were forced in this profession in our country because they had to earn for a family and that had been depicted through the graffiti.

"They are denied a social status. Their children have to face the social ignominy throughout their lives. We are trying to give a message that it is because of us that these women are in the state they are, to satisfy the lust of men in society," Roy told DNA.

Chairman of the committee, Uttam Saha said that they had chosen a street graffiti because all protests take place on the road. "We have tried to hit the road, literally. There will be a decoration of saris and some arms of men would be shown tugging at those saris," Saha said.

The street graffiti shows a sex worker's journey. It begins with a gate where women are shown peeing. Then there is a woman with half of her face veiled with a distorted vermillion bindi on her forehead and another one busy putting up loud make-up on her face to woo clients. The graffiti proceeds towards the main pandal which has been made in a typical apartment building seen in a red light area. Along the path are several messages against trafficking and forced-prostitution.

The second puja, organised by Durbar Mahila Samannay Samity is an all-women puja organised solely by sex workers of Sonagachhi, the biggest red light area of the country.

"Other than helping shift the idol from the pandal to the van which would take it for immersion, we will not take any help from men in the whole process of the puja. The idol has been made by a woman, hundreds of sex workers of the area have pooled in money for the puja, all the cooking and cutting of fruits would be done by women, there is a lady 'purahit' to chant mantras and even female 'dhakis' or drummers have been brought in to beat the drums," said Putul Halder, president of the Durbar.

She said that they had been fighting for their rights of organising a puja and were granted the permission by Calcutta High Court only last year. "It is strange that idols are traditionally built with clay taken from a red light area and we were not allowed to organise a puja. The puja, this time, will be inaugurated by a very senior sex worker herself," Halder said.

THE JOURNEY

The street graffiti shows a sex worker’s journey. It begins with a gate where women are shown peeing. Then there is a woman with half of her face veiled with a distorted vermillion bindi on her forehead and another one busy putting up loud make-up on her face to woo clients

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