Sonagachhi, touted as Asia’s largest red-light district that has more than 11,000 sex workers and draws more than 30,000 clients every day on an average, is witnessing empty streets over the past 10 days, as the scare over the spread of Covid-19 has discouraged both sex workers and clients.
“People are scared and want to avoid body contact. A good number of the sex workers are staying off the business and clients, too, have stopped coming,” said Bishakha, president of Durbar Mahila Samannay Samiti (DMSS), Kolkata’s largest organisation for sex workers.
She said that the average daily footfall of clients has come down from 30,000 to less than 10,000. Some sex workers have also refused clients who had symptoms of cough and cold.
Mahashweta Mukherjee, liaison officer of the organisation, said that a section of sex workers has kept themselves confined. “Few clients are coming. Masks are rarely available and there is hardly any protection from contracting the disease. The streets are nearly empty,” she said.
The Sonagachhi area in north Kolkata is made of several hundred multi-storied brothels and attracts clients from all over West Bengal and even beyond. A sex worker said on Sunday that since the season is changing, many have symptoms of fever, cough, and sneezing.
“People are trying to avoid contact with anyone having symptoms of cold and fever,” the sex worker said, adding that she had not accepted any client in the past three days.
Officer-bearers of DMSS said that awareness campaign had been carried out among sex workers asking everyone to report symptoms of cough and cold.
Bengal so far has no reported case of Covid-19 but a number of persons are kept under watch. As precautionary measures, schools, colleges and universities have been closed and all the courts will remain closed Monday onwards.