28 January 2009
OUR STORY / THE BEGINNING
The sex workers are no lesser citizens. It is very rare that a woman, a girl or an under aged child becomes a sex worker voluntarily. Divorce, poverty, domestic violence and torture, failure in love affairs, kidnapping are some of the causes that drive women and girls into prostitution.The condition of sex workers in Kerala is appalling. They are caught in the chain of pimps, gundas and other antisocial elements in the society and the police on the other side. Classified under criminals, these women find it difficult to raise their voice against basic human rights violation. Moreover, the absence of brothels, which invariably provides shelter, increases the gravity of sufferings of sex workers in Kerala. Many of these sex workers and their children are on the street. Thus these children too undergo all the brutalities suffered by their mothers.‘Foundation for Integrated Research in Mental Health’ (FIRM), an organization formed by a team of medical doctors, held the first state level meeting of the Sex Workers of Kerala on February 20 and 21 of 1999 at Hassan Marakkar Hall, Thiruvananthapuram. Around 350 sex workers and people from different walks of life like poets, journalists, lawyers, doctors, social activists, cultural and political activists were a part of this meeting. Issues and problems of sex workers were the focal point of this discussion. It turned out that one of the major concerns of the sex workers was regarding their children.As a result, on March 4, 1999 a meeting of a nascent ‘support team’ was held at ‘Anasooya’, Perumthanni, Thiruvananthapuram. The objective of this meeting was to understand and tackle the problems of sex workers. Ten supporting teams were formed in the meeting. They are (1) Legal Aid (2) Media (3) Network (4) Employment (5) Child Care (6) Night Shelter (7) Housing (8) Publication (9) Souvenir (10) Drop-in-Center.
CHILLA is a project of ANANNIA.
ANANNIA (An Invitation for New Initiatives) is an NGO of Professionals, Artists, Social workers and Activists who are committed themselves for the promotion of new initiatives for social change. We are in pursuit of quality of life. We solicit your generous support to run this home.
Please email or call us with the following information.
You can copy and print the following form to make a donation.
YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL HELP OUR CHILDREN ENVISION A BRIGHTER FUTURE
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Please make crossed Cheque/DD in favour of CHILLA
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Our Bank- State Bank Of Travancore, Thirumala Branch, Kerala
Name: Mr. /Ms.__________________________________________________________
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Please complete the form and send Cheque/D.D/M.O. to:
Chilla, House No.A-37, Vidhyadhi Raja Nagar, Poojappura P.O
Thiruvananthapuram, PIN 695012.
Please help us to determine how to make the best use of your skills as a volunteer by filling out the questions below:
1. GENERAL INFORMATION
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Thank you for your interest in supporting CHILLA’s children! We are happy and moved by the response. Thank you for your enthusiasm and generosity.
We have initiated some housing programmes with the help of Habitat for Humanity India, Habitat Technology Group (Non Governmental Organizations) and housing programmes for the poor by Government of Kerala.
For Sudha* (25 years, Vattappara, Thiruvananthapuram) we built a two bedroom house. After her studies she got a job in a N.G.O. Now she is living in her own house with her grand mother.
After the studies Aswathy*(20 years, Vattappara, Thiruvananthapuram) got a job in an apparel park. We helped her to build a two bedroom house. Now she is living in her own house with her husband and infant.
We helped a sex worker (Gomathy*40 years, Vattappara, Thiruvananthapuram) to build a two bedroom house. Now she is living in her own house with her two children.
We helped Urvasi*(38 years, Adoor, Pathanamthitta) to build a three bedroom house and to start a business. Now she is running the scrap shop and living in her own house with her three children.
We helped Fathima* (37 years, Vattiyoorkavu, Thiruvananthapuram) to build a two bedroom house and the building work is in progress. We hope that she can live in her own house with her children in the coming academic year.
* Name is changed
Some of the children are admitted in private boarding schools paying exorbitant fees by their mothers. But when these women are sick or arrested and put in the jail, they will not be able to pay for the children.
There are no facilities to look after small babies. For the same reason, some among them sell their babies just after delivery. Some of the women keep their children with other women during work, for which they will have to pay exorbitantly. Some women keep their children with close relatives. But the relatives usually do not allow the women to stay with them. This separates the child from mother. Some women take the children also along with them during work. This may give some protection to women, but the hostile street is so unhealthy for the children.
There are very few residential centers, which admit the children of sex workers. In these centers, they do not allow the women to take back the children during vacation period, and in effect the women lose the child forever.
The children undergo shame and psychological trauma during police arrests and are subjected to verbal abuse and social ostracism.
The children are vulnerable and can be subjected to physical and sexual abuse. But most of the sex workers try to protect them, but it is a Herculean task given the situation.
The health care facilities can never be properly utilized by the sexworkers because of the social exclusion.
Sex workers are isolated from society on the basis of their mode of living. It is often believed that sex workers should be educated about the need for protecting their own children as if they are not aware of it. But this is not the case. They are as much aware as any other mother about the care of their children. It is the double standard of the society, which makes it impossible for them. In fact many of the sex workers are on the street working to fend for their children and other family members.
In the past there have been many attempts to rehabilitate the children of sex workers by different organizations. But most of the times it will not give the expected result because when these children are admitted in other institutions, they will be discriminated by staff and inmates. Some sex workers do admit their children in boarding schools without revealing their identity. The result is the starting of a saga of hide and seek and a plethora of lies, which create so much tension for the mothers and the children.
Small babies and pre-school children are often looked after by beggars in the street, or by some former sex workers who are friends or by relatives. They will have to pay exorbitant amounts to make this happen and when the mothers are arrested and imprisoned, the children are left to the mercy of these caretakers. Actually the neglect of the children starts when the mothers are arrested and imprisoned for there is none to provide for their expense. The mothers, after their term in the prison, have to take the child away and find a new place. Repeated placements and displacements do affect the well being of children.
Usually, in the name of rehabilitation, the children of sex workers are removed and isolated from their mothers, which means the women losing the right over their children and the children losing the affection of their mothers. Then the stigma of being a child of sex worker hangs as a Damocles’ sword over their head for the rest of their lives. The stigma and hate is reinforced between the child and mother by the supposed rehabilitation by separation.
Initially the decision was to admit the children only in centers which allow their mothers to be present at the time of admission. This was not allowed due to stigma of mothers being sexworkers. But another difficulty also arose. These children, though under our guardianship were taken away by their mothers without our knowledge. The center will inform us that the child is lost. A search will follow, locate and place the child back in the orphanage. But after three or four such incidents, the centers refused to take the children back.
The mothers have nothing but the child. They are struggling every moment with police, gundas, auto drivers and the public to exist on the street. Their difficulties are countless and the stress unbearable. When they earn money, their only source of enjoyment is with their children. When they are beaten up, they want their children to share their sorrow. They can’t obey the rules and restrictions of the orphanages because they cannot meet the children when they are in need. At the same time the people in the orphanage will do their best to de-link the child from the mother in order to provide a ‘respectable’ identity for the children. Unintentionally they will turn the child against the mother by portraying her as a corrupting element in society. The existing morality and life style will justify it. In other words admitting a sex worker’s child in an orphanage simply means sex workers losing the right to be a mother.