Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

CSWs and PCR

April 7th, 2009 · No Comments

As a proud realist, I’m typically sympathetic to commercial sex worker (CSW) campaigns that seek legitimacy for their members’ chosen trade. That doesn’t mean I lack all squeamishness about the cash-for-flesh exchange, but I acknowledge that it’s called “the world’s oldest profession” for a reason. The transparency that is supposed to accompany legitimacy strikes me as something rather desirable, since abuses flourish more in the dark than in the light.

So Microkhan was struck by the latest news out of Kolkata, where the city’s CSWs are trying—for the umpteenth time—to flex a little political muscle:

The group that call themselves ‘Urbar Mahila Samanya Committee’ is an initiative of the sex workers of the red light area of Sonagachi, and their demand looks nothing new: application of the labor rights for their profession, which has been a ongoing discussion in India for a long time.

The demands, which have been placed in front of each of the political parties also includes: acceptance of their profession by the society, government affiliation of sex workers, non discrimination of their children or family members and freedom from police oppression. “In West Bengal, there are 70,000 sex workers. After including their family members, the total population of the voters would be 2, 80,000. So with such a huge vote bank, we should get equal rights like people from other sections of the society,” said Bharati Dey, sex worker and Project Director of Durbar Mahila Samanya Samiti, Sonagachi.

But if effective CSW regulatory regimes are to be designed, a couple of huge questions remain. And chief among them is how to ensure that CSWs adhere to public-health regulations. In West Bengal, for example, would the government-run clinics really have the means to test 70,000 individuals each month? And would those individuals really want to spend 1/30th of their month waiting in long queues for the privilege?

One possible solution, however, was recently proposed by Patrick Kimmitt of the University of Westminster. His study attested to the potential efficacy of remote testing, using swabbed bits of DNA. Imagine this: a CSW mails in her DNA every month, and regulators mail her back a one-month renewal on her license to practice. No clinic queues, and no need for phlebotomists. Best of all? Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of DNA is a much more reliable way of testing for STDs than traditional methods.

Yeah, sci-pol wonkery isn’t too erotic. But neither is the clap.

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