Mumbai: Commercial sex workers in the city are hard-hit, first by the outbreak of coronavirus and secondly, by the virtual lockdown in place.

Faced with the prospect of disease and starvation, the sex workers say, if they could choose, it would be the latter. Business has come to a virtual standstill. Rani, a sex worker, summed it up thus:

"Coronavirus has become an issue of life and death for us." Besides, there is the problem of lack of awareness, lack of cleanliness and lack of food. Social organisations have demanded the government pay attention to the issues of the sex worker in red light areas across the city and the state.

There are more than 4,000 sex workers in Mumbai alone. Kamathipura is where many of them are found. Preeti Patkar, cofounder of Prerna, says, "Although the administration is raising awareness at different levels in this situation, masks and sanitisers have yet to find their way to these women.

There are many such places like this. Therefore, if an infected customer arrives in the area, imagine what can happen," Patkar said. "Due to the shutdown, their business has been adversely affected.

Now the question arises how these sex workers will get food. Since they lead a life of 'earn and eat', they hardly have any money set aside for contingencies.

On humanitarian grounds, it is necessary to provide food to these people in accordance with the 'Kerala Pattern', on ration cards," she said. Bar girls too find their cup of woes running over, since bars have been closed.

"There is no denying that for want of other means of employment, these girls get into the 'call girl' business. Since this is conducted through online bookings or on the phone, it is difficult to restrict it.

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