Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Durbar Projects

This year there are four research groups working with various populations at Durbar. The research teams/topics this year are really exciting to me. 

One group is working with Komal Ghandar, the cultural wing of Durbar that includes a dance troop. Some of the members are also members of Amra Pradatik (We Are the Foot Soldiers) which is the group for children of sex workers. Others are also part of Anandam, the LGBT group for sex workers or children or sex workers. The Komal Ghandar group is interested in exploring what it means to be members of a dance troop that travels, performs, and enters competitions with others groups who are not children of sex workers. They're also interested in exploring how being a part of the actual group and having an extra group identity (aside from being children of sex workers) benefits them mentally and emotionally. 

Another group is working with Anandam, the LGBTKH group within Durbar. Anandam has been working to repeal Indian Code 377, the law that makes homosexuality illegal in India. This group is interested in how a political revolution is possible through first creating a social revolution. Keep in mind though, that while homosexuality in India is highly stigmatized, so is sex work. So that double stigmatization really creates a roadblock for Anandam, and more importantly, can create incredibly unsafe spaces for them. 

The third group is researching the networking opportunities between Durbar and other collectives that work with marginalized populations in Calcutta. For example, today they attended the elections for Disha (Hindi meaning = "direction"), which is a collective of domestic workers who are fighting for more rights and protection for women who work in that profession. Currently, there are no laws that protect domestic workers. They cannot join labor unions and typically they work 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. No holidays, no time off, very low pay, etc. This group is also looking at the collaboration between Durbar and other collectives in the area. 

The fourth group is examining the family dynamics within sex worker families, mainly those that have babus involved. Babus are fixed customers for sex workers. Typically men, these customers sometimes have families of their own but they have one sex worker that they visit daily. Sometimes they pay her, or sometimes they negotiate other forms of payment, such as the babu acting as a father figure for the sex worker's children for social reasons and in order to get them into a school. If the babu acts as a husband to the sex worker outside of the red light district, she could have access to many more opportunities and services for her and her family. This group will also explore the relationships between sex workers and their babus and the possible interpersonal violence that takes place within those relationships. 

All groups will present their findings to Durbar in the form of research papers and also to the Penn community in the form of short presentations. I can't wait to see how it all plays out for them. :)

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