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‘The Autobiography of a Sex Worker'

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1 ‘The Autobiography of a Sex Worker'
Presentation By Shantanu Raghav Ramnik Singh Malhi Ankit Lekhra

2 ‘The Autobiography of a Sex Worker'
Best-selling author and sex worker whose outspoken views of sex work as an ordinary career choice have stirred controversy in conservative India 13,000 copies in 100 days, Jameela has so far earned 84,000 rupees (US$1,830) from book sales "I have written this book for other sex workers. I wanted to talk about it to remove the stigma," Jameela said Nalini Jameela (50) holds her book 'The Autobiography of a Sex Worker' in the southern Indian state of Kerala December 14, 2005

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Says V.C. Harris, a professor at Kerala's MG University: "This is not a victim's book. One of the most striking things about the book is the confidence and inner strength that exudes from it.“ I am nalini. Was born at Kalloor near Amballoor. I am forty-nine years old.” … condemned the work, calling it a “prurient money-spinner” Despite mixed reactions from various circles…sold 13,000 copies in 100 days…. Later withdrew the first version of the memoir and rewrote it. Today, as Westland Books brings us J. Devika’s English translation of the memoir, Now, Jameela shares space on the webpage of Kerala-based DC Literary Agency with such eminent names

4 ‘The Autobiography of a Sex Worker'
She also speaks as a daughter, wife, mother and friend; and as a public figure, with a name and a face, rather than remaining anonymous. The photograph on the back cover shows a pleasant, firm and faintly smiling face — this is the tone of the memoir as well. In brisk and matter-of-fact sentences filled with nouns and verbs rather than adjectives,

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Chapter : A New Job “I started sex work after my husband's death, when his mother began demanding a really large sum from me daily to support my children... My mother-in-law asked for five rupees every day” Sex work paid more than she was earning as a factory worker “You'll have to 'go along with' a man, she replied. No one would openly mention sleeping together or sex..” Her first client is a police officer; but with the beatings that follow in the police station the next morning, she experiences the double standards of life as a sex worker

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Chapter : The company House “In general, those were happy days that flew by fast. I used to send home money very regularly.”

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Chapter : At Mangalore “my husband's younger brother …was sending plenty of money back home. So they had decided not to accept my money.” “It was painful to cut my ties with them for good; but they were living well, and I found some happiness in that” “Now that responsibility had ended; I began to think of other options, including that of leaving the trade”

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After two more marriages and with two more daughters, Jameela finds herself back in the profession — but this time with a house of her own in Kozhikode’s Bangladesh Colony…. She joins an organisation of sex workers, speaks out in public, and makes documentaries on their lives.

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Chapter : Rehabilation “A question often raised ..of our 'rehabilitation'... I want to ask these people whether they have ever tried to find out about sex workers' family ties, social ties. Is it possible to build afresh their domestic ties and social ties through rehabilitation? Won't this merely leave the sex worker all the more isolated and helpless?” “We demand that sex work be decriminalized. ... By 'decriminalizing', what we mean is this: if two people want to have sex by common consent, if this is in no way a nuisance to others, then it should not be questioned.

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"Autobiography of a Sex Worker" has brought a degree of fame, money and respect. Jameela's 24-year-old daughter Seena, married and pregnant with her first child, is happy with her mother's fame. "Earlier, people used to say that because my mother is a prostitute, I must also be one. But now when they call me Nalini Jameela's daughter I feel very good," Seena says. Neither Seena, nor her sister Latha, have followed their mother's footsteps, although Jameela says that she would not have stopped them from becoming prostitutes if they had wanted to.

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The book is not a salacious account of sexual exploits — even while writing of an encounter with a tantric, she only says that he wanted “the standard sort of sex” — nor is it a story of victimhood. Jameela is firm about her need for dignity, and about setting the rules: “I wouldn’t wiggle my hips or arms to catch anyone”. Yet,there is a quiet anger against the hypocrisy of a system that criminalises sex work and punishes the sex worker while letting off the client against the so-called “rehabilitation” that does not recognise that sex workers also have families, personal lives and struggles that are as real as anyone else’s

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Prostitution is outlawed, but India has more than 2 million sex workers living on the fringes of society. They have few rights and abuse by both customers and the police is common Commercial sex is one of the main drivers of the spread of HIV/AIDS Many prostitutes are pushed into the trade by traffickers and by poverty and some, including thousands of girls smuggled in from Nepal each year, are held as sex slaves for a decade or more

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