New Delhi

The UNGASS-NACO India Progress Report of 2010 estimated there are 1.26 million sex workers in India. Now in 2021, the numbers might be significantly higher.

The trailer of the film ‘Raag – The Music of Life’ promises a real and raw insight into the world of human trafficking and how commercially sexually exploited women do not get even a dignified death. Dignity is basically the idea that every human has the right to be valued and treated equally. As singer Aretha Franklin put it in her famous R & B song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T … All I’m askin’/is for a little respect.” After the horrors of the Second World War, the United Nations in 1948 created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: “All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

However, there are two facets of the story – one side of the sex work battle condemns prostitution as a human rights abuse and an attack on the dignity of human beings, while the other states sex work is a legitimate occupation, in which a person exchanges sexual acts for money. Criminalization exposes sex workers to abuse and exploitation by law enforcement officials, such as police officers. Human Rights Activists have documented that, in criminalized environments, police officers harass sex workers, extort bribes, and physically and verbally abuse sex workers, or even rape or coerce sex from them. It’s been cited in multiple research journals that criminalization makes sex workers more vulnerable to violence, including rape, assault, and murder, by attackers who see sex workers as easy targets because they are stigmatized and unlikely to receive help from the police. Criminalization also forces sex workers to work in unsafe locations to avoid the police.

Speaking on the subject producer of the film Piyush Mundhada said “The CSWs face a lot of discrimination and violence. They also do not have access to medical facilities and timely treatment – thus many of them succumb to STDs. Many of them do not go to hospitals fearing being stigmatised. Also, there is a challenge with regards to documentation as the trafficked women do not have any identity proofs with themselves.”

Often treated as less than human in life, there has been little dignity in death for the sex workers. Their bodies are frequently tossed into unmarked graves or dumped in the river or buried in the mud, and many a time; burnt electrically inside the brothel. The burials would usually take place at night without any formal prayers. “The web of laws makes CSW vulnerable to police action. Imagine if this trade was legalised in totality. There could have been the rehabilitation of the CSWs then and re-trafficking could be prevented. As a film-maker, we have given this food for thought to the audiences through a portrayal of the grim situations of the human trafficking victims. These victims aren’t any less humans than anyone else, its high time we treat them with dignity and give them the respect every human being deserves. If we could change the lives of even a few, we would consider ourselves to be successful” said producer Piyush Mundhada as he signed off for the moment.

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