Prostitution and Beyond: An Analysis of Sex Work in India

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Edited by: Rohini Sahni, V. Kalyan Shankar & Hemant Apte

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    Sugiya

    Your lips are

    Like a parrot's

    One said

    Sugiya giggled and burst out laughing

    When you laugh,

    You look so nice, Sugiya!

    Seeing her sparkling teeth

    Was like lightning in clouds

    The second one said.

    The third one said:

    You sing very well

    Just like the koel

    And what to say for your dancing.

    When you dance

    The whole earth gets up and dances.

    The fourth one read poetry in praise of her eyes.

    Your great big eyes

    Are so beautiful, Sugiya.

    Just like a doe's

    Sit here next to me

    And gaze at me.

    The fifth one who was very close to her

    And quiet

    Secretly whispered in her ear—

    Will you be my girl, Sugiya?

    I'll make you a golden chain.

    She heard and became very sad, Sugiya

    Turned silent, still

    Forgot laughing singing and dancing.

    From morning to evening

    The whole day, murderous work, Sugiya

    Often thought

    Here why can every fifth man

    Only speak in the language of my body,

    How I wish

    Someone would say

    You're such a hard worker, Sugiya

    And so innocent and honest.

    If only someone would say that!

    A poem by Nirmala Putul—Translated from Hindi by Arlene Zide, Pramod Kumar Tiwari and the poet

    Reprinted from ‘Sex Determination’, The Little Magazine, Vol. VII: 1&2, 2007 page 103

    Acknowledgements

    This little text of acknowledgements does not do justice to all those who have been associated with the book in one way or the other. But preparing even this has been an arduous task. It has not been a question of whom to acknowledge, as much it has been about where to begin.

    Let us begin with those who have inspired the book, whose concerns this book seeks to voice, and who would not find any mention otherwise. Many of these are nameless, retained not as individuals at times but as impressions; including women in prostitution, NGO personnel, academicians, field researchers, films, seminars—all of which have contributed to the conceptualization of this volume in their own way.

    The contributors, nearly all of them, have been smart enough to ignore our constant pleas for early submissions. When they did submit, one could feel the hardwork that had gone into their research. All of them have been wonderful to work with. Some of them are friends. But there have been so many of them who have responded to our requests to contribute to the volume, in very short notice at times, and some whom we are yet to meet in person. The contributions are not just in terms of the papers that they wrote, or the suggestions they made, but in giving shape to the book in exactly the same manner as we had envisaged it to be.

    As part of this book, it has been a privilege to meet Dr Sudhir Patwardhan, who has been warm and generous in allowing us to use his sketches in the book. Prakash Vishwasrao of Lokvangmay, Mumbai has been equally gracious in providing us Dr Patwardhan's sketches.

    Some of the papers in this book have been sourced from journals, so acknowledgements are due to individuals who have co-operated in extending the copyright permissions for reproducing edited or modified versions of these papers. In this context, we would like to thank Richard Delahunty of Routledge, Taylor and Francis for promptly responding to our request for Geetanjali Gangoli's paper in Section I, Matthew Lambart of Sage Publications, London for Svati P. Shah's paper in Section IV, Dr Mishra and A.K. Ojha of the Bhoruka Public Welfare Trust for their report, Kawakami Foundation, Pune for permitting the use of survey results in the paper on economics of sex work, Professor Mutatkar for the two papers on Nat community in Rajasthan, and prostitution and language. When we read Nirmala Putul's ‘Sugiya’ in The Little Magazine, we felt the poem said a lot about the spirit of the book, in just a few words. Our thanks are due to Antara Dev Sen, Editor, The Little Magazine for allowing us to reprint it as an introductory dedication.

    Meena Kurlekar of Vanchit Vikas, Pune and Seema Waghmode of Kayakalp, Pune deserve a special mention here for their support and assistance in identifying potential contributors. Sujata Patel, Sharmila Rege, Anagha Tambe, Rekha Pande, Vidyut Bhagwat, Vidya Baal, U. Girish have helped in identifying suitable contributors and commenting on some of the texts.

    The journey of this book should trace itself to Omita Goyal, who realized the potential significance of this book, and was prompt to commisssion it on behalf of SAGE. Subsequently Sugata Ghosh has been the supportive anchor of the book at different stages on at SAGE. We deeply appreciate their support and patience through the production of this volume. We would also like to thank Trinankur Banerjee for designing the cover. Over the past several months of this book's journey, Koel Mishra has been the face of SAGE for us, painstakingly editing through these hundreds of pages. She has been wonderful to work with, and we hope she would say the same of us!

    Introduction

    Take a look at the sketch on the left. Would you think of it as conforming to a book on prostitution? On showing this sketch to some friends, their immediate reaction was ‘Really? But she is not a prostitute. Why, she is even reading a book!’

    The woman in the sketch does not look like a prostitute. Is the disagreement to do with the seemingly ‘out of sort’ power structures, where the woman is clad in her entirety, as if at the expense of the man? Or is it more of a statement on her social, economic or educational backgrounds, which are more conspicuous than her sexual indulgence? Is that why she ‘cannot’ be a prostitute?

    The artist's depiction of private spaces, and the display of intimacy shared by the man and the woman, do they necessarily mean an authorized relationship? What makes us cringe from extending this privacy and display of intimacy to a prostitute?

    Even if we consider a sketch in nude, the identity of the woman is something that cannot be ascertained. There is nothing in it to suggest that she is a prostitute, but there is nothing to suggest otherwise. Yet, in most cases, one would argue fervently of how she is a ‘normal’ woman, far from being a prostitute. This denial of space even within the spheres of sexuality is perhaps the most poignant of ironies, as if sexuality by itself is a mainstream attribute. For someone who derives her livelihood through the exhibition of her sexuality, this is denying the very reason of her existence. But her denigration has only begun.

    In the sanctification of marriage, and the binary of the chaste and the fallen; in the sanctification of working spaces and trivialization of her work as an indispensable evil; in the demarcation of living spaces and the lewd references to the red light area; across all of these contrasts, we consistently find her existence as a woman becoming secondary to her profession. This is where her denigration is complete.

    For many, the impressions of a sex worker are almost chimerical, derived largely from her visual imagery in the media; chastised as much by self as by the society, her portrayal is a sheer mockery of reality. For someone who works in the most ruthless of circumstances, and faces the most dreadful of professional hazards (particularly in the context of HIV), nothing could be farther from truth. For anyone who has had a glimpse of prostitution beyond this veneer of visual imagery, the subject ends up evoking more questions than answers.

    The existence of a sex worker could be trivialized or muffled in the prevalence of images over reality. Her character could be entertainment material for the society at large. But her connections with the society are for real, going much beyond the physicality of her relationships with the clients. What of the economics of remittances that she creates and sustains as long as she can earn? What of the artist in her who preserved a wealth of music and dance in the past? Do these virtues have to be secondary to her stigma as a breeding ground for immorality? Is her association with society to be viewed merely as a high-risk group in the transmission of AIDS? What are the underlying value systems at work that highlight only the negative aspects, while not acknowledging the possibility of anything positive about her?

    Across all of this discussion on imagery, it is the undercurrent of attitudes towards sex workers that makes its presence felt. The imagery of sex work could mould attitudes, and attitudes—in turn—could manifest in the imagery, reinforcing each other. The culminating point however, is of marginalization, and a strongly conditioned negativity of responses to her needs. Attitudes that demean her work and character go on further to marginalize her at every level of existence. Otherwise, how does one explain the sheer neglect in sanitizing a street in the red light area? Or the callousness of public hospitals in treating her? Or the treatment meted out to her children in schools by teachers and fellow students alike?

    At this juncture, we come to an important point of introspection. Whose responsibility is it to voice the concerns of a sex worker? Is it the prerogative of the NGOs dealing with sex workers at the grass roots level? Or is it a question of the women's movements recognizing her needs as fellow women and voicing them? Social agencies like the NGOs or women's groups, themselves, may not be independent of the social conditioning of negativity that we have discussed earlier. Further, they may also limit themselves to working in select issues pertaining to health, or child care, or legal counsel.

    At one level, the sex workers themselves need to internalize this responsibility, by mobilizing themselves. But mobilization of sex workers has its own set of difficulties. Firstly, sex workers are not a homogeneous community. Consequently, they may exhibit an enormous diversity of conditioning. The opinion of a brothel-based sex worker about herself may be different from that of a Devadasi, who in turn would be different from a street-walker. Secondly, even if we consider a presumably homogeneous category of brothel-based sex workers, there could be diversity on the parameters of ethnic or regional backgrounds, marital status and age, among others. At a more fundamental level, there is the problem of a lot of sex workers being migrants, without any local support structures.

    In this context, the role of social scientists acquires all the more relevance. Firstly, they have the task of considering the breadth of issues pertaining to sex workers in their entirety without losing sight of specific ground-level problems. Going further, they not only have to steer clear of attitudes, but also create a measure of sensitivity towards the problems of sex workers.

    Existing literature on sex work in India though voluminous, could be broadly classified as a fragmented documentation. On one hand, we have ethnographic studies of localized, practical realities in contemporary sex work in different regions of the country. It is the natural outcome of grass roots activities and interventions pursued by social scientists and welfare organizations working directly with the sex workers. On the other hand, there exists academic literature that explores sex work from a historical perspective, dealing with its myriad socio-cultural forms across regions; analyzing the ancient, medieval, colonial and post-colonial transformations in the institution of sex work. Further, there also exist theoretical frameworks that contextually analyze sex work in the mainstream discourse on femininity.

    This volume attempts to bridge these diverse approaches and bring about a coherence of issues that are pertinently entwined to sex work, but have been dealt with at different platforms of research. Through this, the volume endeavours to surface the inherent inter-relations that together form the complexity of sex work in India.

    The topics covered in this book are not all-encompassing; but there is a definite attempt at including perspectives as diverse and representative as possible. They range from theoretical discourses on sex work and femininity, to the diversity of sex work practices in contemporary India. The book includes the social, cultural and economic aspects of sex work, according equal weight to all these issues influencing sex work in India today. By collectively presenting these researches, the volume attempts to bring out the inter-connectivity of issues, all of which have a distinct bearing on each other.

    The volume opens with a section devoted to discussing various theoretical positions on sex work, and the way they have developed independent voices in the Indian context. An understanding of these positions at the outset is necessary to appreciate the way feminist analysis on prostitution in India has evolved. They give rise to pertinent questions like why didn't the women's movements in India consider sex work or sex workers as an integral aspect of the women's movements. Why are sex workers’ movements limited and isolated to sex workers only? Is prostitution perhaps too alien to mainstream and particularly middle-class sexual experiences, which is the basis for the mainstream movement? If the sex workers’ movement is to have a voice, where is it to be placed in the context of feminist discourse? Even within sex workers’ movements, and the organizations involved with them, there are contrasting views and ideologies. Is this internal rift of opinions further limiting the internal interaction across the sex workers organizations, not to mention its interaction with mainstream movements? This section attempts to explore these issues, which are crucial in determining the future course of women's movements, as well as sex workers’ movements.

    Geetanjali Gangoli comprehensively overviews the journey of mainstream feminist movements in India and their evolving positions of immorality, hurt and choice in viewing sex workers. This paper is supplemented by the proceedings of a live debate comprising of a panel of women activists. Together, they reveal an interesting intersection of opinions and responses on a gamut of issues related to women's movements and their attitudes towards sex worker's concerns. Swati Ghosh presents a theoretical reading of the sex workers’ manifesto from a critical feminist perspective, analyzing the purport of sex as work, the implications and limitations of the text. To conclude, Anagha Tambe foregrounds the importance of the caste-based voice; a historically evolving, indigenous position in the mobilization of sex workers, and places it in the context of the discourse on sex work in India today.

    The use of the term ‘sex work’ is a linguistic homogenization, that does not do justice to the individuality of different practices of prostitution that have come to survive in India today. Each of these forms has had its own journey different from the other, evolved differently across time, and their transformations deserve to be unravelled separately. On the one hand, we have historical forms of prostitution, with their cultural vestiges, and on the other, new spaces and avenues of sex work establish themselves in response to the processes of urbanization. The second section puts forth a spectrum of these diverse forms co-existing with each other. The section is not about trying to align theoretical positions with the actual practices. Instead, it opens the field for introspection of whether any theoretical position can truly come to reflect the amazing diversity of sex work in India today.

    The second section is initiated with a historical form, the Devadasis and the institution of ritualized prostitution, where Rekha Pande explores the journey of Jogins in Andhra Pradesh through case studies. This is followed with another distinct historical practice, where R.C. Swarankar discusses the sexual behaviour in the community based sex work of the Nat women in Rajasthan. Not limiting the space of sex work to women alone, this section includes an overview of Male Sex Work (MSW), as analyzed by Bindumadhav Khire. Further as a representation of the contrast in urban sex work, the section includes two papers: Ambuja Kowlgi and Vijay Kumar Hugar presenting an ethnographic account of sex work in Dharwad, followed by the more sophisticated form of call girls, based on a research report of Ishita Majumdar and Sudipta Panja for the Bhoruka Public Welfare Trust. Juxtaposed with each other, both the urban forms are non-brothel based and surreptitious in nature. But they still cannot be equated by any measure when we consider the women practicing them—their social backgrounds, nature of their clientele and the vast extremes of monetary realization associated with them.

    The third section of the volume could be categorized as a congregation of societal interactions and responses to the existing and emerging realities of sex work. It could be critically argued that the emergence of both the theoretical positions as well as the multitude of practices is part of this societal interaction. But this section has a larger responsibility of separating the finer strands of this interaction. Some of the interactions could be monetary, where there is the bi-directional exchange of money from the society to the sex worker, and then back to the mainstream in the form of remittances. The interactions could be further classified in terms of their attitudinal manifestations and the stigmatization of the profession. Going further, the interactions could be regulatory, attempting to control the institution of sex work through the legal framework or the governance of health.

    The section commences with our paper exploring the complex interactions of markets, histories and prostitution, and the underlying transformations in the economics of the profession. Meena Seshu, based on her grass-roots experiences, gives a voice to the realities of sex work; as part of which she discusses the impact of stigmatization on sex workers, its violence and its manifestation through marginalizing societal attitudes. The section is further explored through the regulatory framework of law and public health.

    Manoj Wad and Sharayu Jadhav put forth the existing legal framework concerning prostitution. The ambiguities of the legal text, its lacunae, its interpretation at the grass-roots level, and the diversity of judgements is illustrated through short articles, case studies and interviews; Zara Kaushik, Harshad Barde, Puja Yadav and Asim Sarode contribute this supplementary text.

    In the sub-section on health and rights, Vikrant Sahasrabuddhe and Sanjay Mehendale review the biological and socio-demographic factors that predispose female sex workers (FSW) to the risk of HIV/AIDS. This paper is complemented by Meena Shivdas who relates the story of SANGRAM and VAMP and their experiences of mobilizing sex workers to combat AIDS and protect themselves. The predominance of AIDS tends to overshadow general health problems, giving an impression that AIDS alone is a health hazard to a sex worker. The interview with Dr Nitin Bora is to counter this narrowing of the health perspective, where he sheds light on the regular health concerns of a sex worker.

    The third section with its discussions on the interaction between the mainstream and the fringes of sex workers, might give the impression of the sex workers being at the receiving end in their exchange with society. The institution of prostitution pays back in kind through its vast cultural exchanges with the society. This is reflected in language and literature, and their depiction of prostitutes. This is evident in their contribution to the creation of characters in cinema and theatre, reflecting on the changing perspectives of values, morality and the concept of femininity.

    The concluding section is devoted to discussing the cultural impacts of prostitution in language, cinema, theatre and the media. Gayatri Chatterjee, in her paper on the narration-representation of the Veshya (prostitute), Ganika and the Tawaif (courtesan) in Indian languages, literature and cinema, looks at the status of prostitutes, and explores the construction of these cultural manifestations. Going further, she questions the construction of the histories of these characters, bringing in a fresh perspective to the histories of working women. Hemant Apte and Rohini Sahni discuss how the nuances of a language reflect the attitude of a society towards prostitutes and women at large. Lata Singh's contribution on theatre and femininity explores the issue of the middle class quest for respectability, reflecting in the attitudes towards female performers in the colonial period, and their stigmatization as ‘prostitutes’. Svati Shah in her paper examines the ways in which the iconicity of prostitution in the city of Mumbai is inflected by narratives of danger and moral decline through public health and journalistic representations of one of the city's longest-standing red light areas, Kamathipura.

    At a broader level, this volume attempts to mitigate the negativity, which has come to be associated indelibly with any mention of sex work. This is reflected through the construction of the sections, the choice of papers, the inclusion of ethnographic studies, group discussions, interviews and commentaries. Taking it further, is the use of sketches, which are a distinct break from the stereotypical images associated with sex work, like explicit visuals of brothels, impoverished women waiting at the windows, congested spaces, to mention a few. These images are undoubtedly real, but the string of reality does not end here. In the attempt to bring out ground realities in all their nakedness, the stereotypical images only end up diverting the attention from the larger, equally real issues of sex work. The choice of sketches for this book, by Sudhir Patwardhan, have been chosen not for beautifying the reality, but instead, to counter the stereotypical. They are a conscious attempt directed at simply viewing reality for reality's sake, and bringing out the woman in every sex worker.

    RohiniSahni and V.KalyanShankar
  • About the Editors and Contributors

    Editors

    Rohini Sahni is Reader, Department of Economics, University of Pune. As a specialist in development economics and international economics, she has been exploring the role of gender in the process of development. Her interest in research on sex work has stemmed from her close interaction with women's groups/organizations and research on sex workers in Pune. Presently, her research interests include problems of Indian higher education and economic-cultural interactions as emerging from globalization. Beyond research, she is an established writer of short stories (in Marathi), sketching the contemporary urban lives of women.

    V. Kalyan Shankar is currently a Doctoral student at the Department of Economics, University of Pune, working in the area of international trade and development, WTO agreements and its impact on developing countries including India. He hails from a family of social reformers, scholars and poets in Andhra Pradesh. This background has profoundly influenced his concerns and sensibilities, leading him to work on issues of social concern.

    Hemant Apte is Reader, Department of Anthropology, University of Pune. He is the President of Late Professor Yamato Kawakami Foundation, an NGO working for women and the Vice President of Maharashtra Association for Anthropological Sciences. He has 13 years of experience as a researcher, consultant, trainer and teacher in sexuality, reproductive health and research methodology. His current interest is in the fields of reproductive health, HIV, sexuality and participatory research methodology.

    Contributors

    Geetanjali Gangoli is a Research Fellow at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. Previously she has taught History at the University of Delhi; been a Sir Ratan Tata Visiting Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and worked at the International Centre for the Study of Violence and Abuse, University of Sunderland. She has published in the areas of sex work in India, the relationship between trafficking of women and poverty, feminist responses to violence and law in India, domestic violence and forced marriage in the UK, and representation of women in the media.

    Meena Saraswathi Seshu is the general secretary of SANGRAM, an organization involved in HIV/AIDS work in Sangli and surrounding districts. One of its most successful projects is to build the capacity of women in prostitution to organize in collectives, to negotiate condom use with their clients and to assert and defend their own rights. SANGRAM and VAMP are responsible for averting thousands of cases of HIV transmission each month. SANGRAM defends some of the most maligned groups in India—poor and lower-caste women who engage in paid sexual encounters for a living, and men who have sex with other men.

    Pushpa Bhave was a faculty in Marathi literature at University of Mumbai. She is a social activist associated with the women's movements. She has worked extensively in the red light area of Mumbai and has written several papers and articles on issues concerning women.

    Kiran Moghe is a political activist and has been a part of the All India Democratic Women's Association since 1986. Presently she is the president of the organization (Maharashtra state). She is a post-graduate in development economics from the London School of Economics, U.K.

    Anagha Tambe is working with the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Department of Women's Studies, University of Pune since 1997, where she has played a role in building the course and curriculum on women's studies. She is presently pursuing Ph.D. on the ‘Debates and Organization on the Issue of Prostitution’ at Department of Sociology, Mumbai University. Her research areas include social history and sexuality from the perspective of gender.

    Swati Ghosh is a Lecturer in Economics at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. Her research interests are in the areas of informal labour markets, migration and gender. Her articles have appeared in Social Text, Hecate, Identity Culture and Politics and Economic and Political Weekly. She is twice recipient of the Social Science Research Council Fellowship (2003, 2004). Currently she is working on a book on prostitution in the context of sex worker's movement: agency, work and emerging sexual identities.

    Rekha Pande is the Director, Centre for Women's Studies at Maulana Azad National Urdu University. Her work is inter-disciplinary, combining the areas of history and women's studies. She has widely published in Indian and international journals in the areas of socialization and family, the girl child, child labour, women's work, health, women's movement and impact of globalization on women, religious and cultural history and women's history. She is the author of four books, Religious Reform Movement in Medieval India (2005), Gender Issues in the Police (2000), Child Labour in the Beedi Industry (1998) and Succession Struggle in the Delhi Sultanate (1990). She is Editor for two journals; ‘International Feminist Journal of Politics’ (IFJP), Routledge Taylor and Francis group, U.K. and ‘Foreign Policy Analysis’, Blackwell, USA. She has received the International Visiting Fellowship in the School of Policy Studies, at the University of Bristol, U.K. for 2004–05.

    R.C. Swarankar worked as Head Department of Anthropology, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur for many years. His areas of specialization include socio-economic studies with their focus on people, communities, particularly vulnerable sections, social impact assessment, evaluation studies related to development projects, action plan, displacement, resettlement and rehabilitation. He also has expertise in the areas of people's involvement, community participation, social mobilization and participatory methodologies.

    Bindumadhav V. Khire is President of Samapathik Trust, Pune of which he is a founding member. The organization is active in working with male sex workers. He holds a B.E. in computer science with 10 years of IT experience in India and USA.

    Ambuja Kowlgi is PhD from the Department of Anthropology, Karnataka University, Dharwad and has an extensive experience in the field of ‘Ethno-pediatrics in a Tribal Setting’.

    Vijay Kumar Hugar is post graduate in anthropology from the University of Karnataka and a graduate in applied statistics, economics, and criminology. He is also an international diploma-holder in reproductive health management. His field of research and work include development and HIV/AIDS.

    Ishita Majumdar is post-graduate in anthropology and has been working in the Bhoruka Public Welfare Trust for the past five years.

    Sudipta Panja is post-graduate in political science and has been working in the Bhoruka Public Welfare Trust for the past five years.

    Manoj Wad, an advocate of the Supreme Court of India has been practising for 18 years after obtaining a degree in LL.M from Cambridge (U.K.). He is also a proficient teacher of Constitutional Law and has been teaching at both the graduate and post graduate levels at reputed institutes in Pune. He currently heads the branch of J.S. Wad & Co. at Pune.

    Sharayu Jadhav has been enrolled as an Advocate of the High Court of Bombay and has since then worked as the legal co-ordinator for Citizens for Justice and Peace, assisting the NGO in the BEST Bakery Trial of Gujarat riots, held at Mumbai. She is currently working as an associate of J.S. Wad & Co., Pune.

    Zara Kaushik is a third-year law student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. She takes special interest in human rights law, cultural anthropology and linguistics, and is currently involved in a project for the Centre for Good Governance dealing with improvements and amendments to anti-corruption law in India. A paper co-authored by her on war and language was invited for presentation at the War, Virtual War and Human Security Conference 2007 in Budapest, Hungary and she has also been the recipient of the Goethe Institut's PAD scholarship for young people proficient in German. She hopes to someday work in the field of human rights.

    Harshad Barde is a third year law student at the Indian Law Society's Law College, Pune. He has completed a diploma in geopolitics and international relations and is presently pursuing one in cyber laws. His research interests include human rights, women's rights, intellectual property rights and cyber law. He is interested in pursuing his post-graduate degree in employment relations.

    Puja Yadav is the president of ‘Akhil Budhwar Peth Devadasi Sanstha’ (ABPDS) Pune, and has been actively involved in the health and legal issues related to sex workers in Pune's red light area. She is a medical practitioner and a legal adviser in the area for over twenty years. The ABPDS is an NGO working in Pune's red light area and works for devadasi rights concerning government pension schemes, health and legal issues.

    Asim Sarode is a human right activist advocate practising in Pune. Through the organization ‘Human Right and Law Defenders’ he is working on different human right issues including the rights of women in sex work.

    Vikrant Sahasrabuddhe is Research Assistant Professor at the Vanderbilt University Institute for Global Health in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. His research interests include clinical epidemiology and policy analysis of women's health in developing countries, especially focused on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and malignancies. Dr Sahasrabuddhe partners with Dr Mehendale and colleagues at the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) in Pune on a U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded clinical epidemiological study on cervical cancer prevention among HIV-infected women in India. Additionally, he works as an epidemiologist on studies on HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer in Lusaka, Zambia.

    Sanjay Mehendale is Deputy Director [Senior Grade] at the National AIDS Research Institute, Pune that functions under the auspices of Indian Council of Medical Research. Dr Mehendale is recognized as one of the foremost and most prolific HIV/AIDS researcher-epidemiologists in India. Working at NARI, he has been instrumental in developing and nurturing the growth of some of the most informative HIV/AIDS related research studies for over a decade. These studies, funded by national and international agencies, have helped describe the high-risks groups, predisposing factors, measures of new infections, socio-behavioural determinants and clinical–management complexities in HIV/AIDS in India. Dr Mehendale has led various HIV prevention studies and clinical and vaccine trials as Principal Investigator. He has authored over 80 manuscripts, including many in international peer reviewed journals.

    Meena Shivdas is a gender and development specialist with work experience in women's rights issues. Her academic training in gender and development studies combined with her involvement with women's movements has resulted in her engagement with policy level work including advocacy, training, and action research. She has worked on such issues as trafficking in women, sex work, migration, violence against women, women's reproductive health and post-Beijing implementation and monitoring. Other areas of interest and work include law, women's human rights, HIV/AIDS, poverty, and sustainable livelihoods. Her training work on gender analysis and advocacy has focused on women's health, CEDAW and human rights. Prior to joining the Commonwealth Secretariat as a Gender Adviser, she worked with regional and international organizations, development agencies and civil society groups across Asia.

    Nitin Bora has been working in association with an NGO Kayakalp working in the red light area of Pune. He is a Special Executive Officer appointed by the Government of Maharashtra in his authority as an HIV/AIDS counsellor, and has a long standing experience of working with women in prostitution.

    Gayatri Chatterjee is an independent scholar of Film Studies. Based in Pune, she has widely lectured in India, USA and Europe. She is the author of Awara, a Penguin re-issue (2003) that won the Swarna-kamal, the President's gold medal for the best book on cinema in 1992, the year of its publication. Her Mother India (2002) is the only Indian entry in the prestigious BFI film classics series of the British Film Institute. Her articles have featured in several edited volumes published nationally and internationally. She also works on indology and has published articles related to this field.

    Lata Singh is a Reader in the Department of History, Maitreyi College, Delhi University. Currently she is a Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi working on a project dealing with gender and theatre in colonial and post-colonial India. She is a UGC Research Fellowship awardee, and has also been awarded the British Academy Visiting Fellowship, 2006–07.

    Svati P. Shah is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in New York University's Gender and Sexuality Studies Programme. Her research and writing focus on sex work and migration in India. Her research interests include the political economy of migration, sex work, development, and urbanization in South Asia and South Asian Diasporas. Her other publications include ‘Open Secrets: Women Soliciting Construction and Sex Work in Bombay’, in Sadhna Arya and Anupama Roy (eds) Poverty, Gender and Migration (SAGE, 2006) and ‘Sexual Commerce and the Axis of Violence: A Feminist Debate Revisited’, Gender and History, 16(3), 2004. She is currently working on a book on sex work and migration in Mumbai.


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