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India: Sex workers get their voices heard through community radio

Jan 16, 2011

Snehalaya, an NGO in Ahmednagar district in the Indian state of Maharashtra has set up the first community radio station in the country dedicated exclusively for sex workers. The station will have 14 hours of programming every day and is expected to take the issues related to sex workers into the public sphere.

"Welcome to Radio Ahmednagar 90.4 FM," is the inaugural announcement to be made by radio jockey Suman Tribhuvan, who works for Snehalaya, an NGO. This community radio station is different because this is the first in the country dedicated exclusively to sex workers. Along with Tribhuvan, seven other women will co-ordinate with her in this venture.

According to the NGO, which works with the sex workers, this venture is one of the first in the country. The community radio station was formally inaugurated by veteran journalist and editor Kumar Ketkar, social crusader Anna Hazare, local journalist Satish Kane and social worker Popat Pawar. "Yes, this is a major step by us to create our own private radio station, exclusively for the benefit of sex workers, who live with extreme social stigma," said Dr Girish Kulkarni, director of Snehalaya.

The radio station will have 14 hours of programming every day with some entertainment and songs thrown in between. Kulkarni said that he struggled to get permission from the Union I&B ministry for an independent radio station for sex workers since 2002.

He said, "Thanks to the pressure created by many other NGOs, we got the permission recently. The rules and permissions are very rigid and we need clearance from six different ministries. Despite being a social organisation, we did not get any tax exemption. We had to pay 50 per cent taxes on the total cost of broadcasting equipment."

Sangeeta Shelar, who works with Snehalaya, said, "We initially spent Rs 25 lakh on the radio station. This radio station will certainly give us some status, especially from the government who has to listen to our issues," she said.

Source : MidDay
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