Ensure Safety of Sex Workers, Customers Screening : Business Association of Budhwar Peth

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Pune, 26 Aug 2020: Business association delegates of Budhwar Peth met Resident Deputy Collector and conveyed their concerns to ensure the region does not become COVID-19 hotspot, after recent unlock.

As Pune unlocks, business owners of Budhwar Peth area are getting increasingly anxious about the potential threat of the region becoming a COVID-19 hotspot as brothels in red light areas resume operation.

Heads of various business associations, representative of Ganesh Mandal, representative of social organisations met with Dr Jayshree Katare, Resident Deputy Collector and submitted a letter requesting her to enable strict vigilance so as to keep vigilance, tests of customers coming to Budhwar Peth brothels.

The association also requested to provide relief to Budhwar Peth sex workers as they tide over the hardships they are facing due to lockdown.

“We have worked very hard to keep Budhwar Peth in the green zone so that we can restart our businesses. We have all suffered heavy losses already. If now the red light area is open, and customers coming from various parts of the city cause COVID to spread again, then we are worried that this area might become a hotspot and we will have to once again go under a complete lockdown. Most of us are financially not in a position to be able to bear another lockdown,” said Bhola Wanjle.

More than 400 business owners and local political leaders have signed this letter which was addressed to the Pune Administration including the Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar, MLA Mukta Tilak, newly appointed Pune District Collector, Rahul Deshmukh, Pune Municipal Commissioner, and Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol.

Prior to the unlock in July, Pune was under lockdown for four months. During this period, despite the crowded living conditions in Budhwar Peth, the residents, and business owners had managed to ensure that there were no new cases in the area even though Pune City cases were touching 80,000.

However, post lockdown the business in the red light area resumed and within four days of the unlock five people including two sex workers and a customer had been tested positive for COVID19 in the Budhwar Peth red light area.

“We believe that the District Administration should ensure that such high contact and high-risk business should be kept under vigilance when COVID cases are still raising in Pune. Also, testing needs to be done to ensure we catch the cases early before more and more people get infected. That is why we decided to meet with the District deputy Collector and present our issues before her. Dr Katare has given us a very positive response and has said she will ensure this issue is taken up and resolved soon”, informed Wanjle.

The trade association members are also cognizant of the issues faced by the sex workers and hence have also requested that some relief be provided to the sex workers to ensure that they are not forced to restart their business. They have also requested that rapid testing be conducted in the area to isolate cases and stop the spread. They have discussed this issue with social activists in the area prior to submitting this letter.

Agreeing to the need for alternate relief and rapid testing in the area, Dr Mathhew, a social activist from Budhwar Peth area stated that, “Most of the sex workers are also scared to restart business during COVID but because they have no other alternative option they have been forced to start work again. If some sustainable relief is given to them, they will also keep their business shut until it is safe. It would be mutually beneficial if a decision is made to keep the red light area under vigilance and provide other relief to sex workers.”

The business owners are hopeful that the District administration will take cognizance of this matter and provide them and the sex workers a mutually beneficial relief.