The Life Insurance Corporation of India is now offering insurance cover to sex workers.
Under LIC's Jeevan Madhur policy, one can pay a weekly or a monthly premium of as little as Rs 25 and Rs 100, respectively. The premium has to be paid for a period of 5 to 10 years. The age limit for buying the policy is 65. The maximum sum that can be assured is Rs 30,000.
Like any other insurance policy, in its case too, the accident benefit will be double the sum assured.
Before buying the policy, one has to undergo a medical test, for which LIC will bear the expenses.
The LIC is collaborating with Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a non-profit organization based in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal in the eastern part of the country, in the new venture.
In effect India's giant public sector firm, LIC has recognised sex trade as a profession, something Durbar workers have been fighting for, points out Santanu Chatterjee, head of Usha Credit, a sister organisation of Durbar.
"In March 2008, V Ravi Kumar, marketing manager, LIC, Mumbai, wrote a letter to us and also to the general manager of the bank that we operate from -- State Cooperative Bank, Waterloo Street -- confirming that Jeevan Madhur policy holders can write 'sex work' as profession in their applications. This is a major breakthrough for each and every Durbar member," Chatterjee told the website rediff.com
"On earlier occasions, Durbar members had been urged to fill in financial documents stating 'housewife' as their professional status," he added.
"But we had not agreed to such a proposition. After all, we are fighting for legalising sex trade."
Chatterjee also said that the State Cooperative Bank on Waterloo Street was one of the few city banks that have let Durbar members "take part in financial dealings in their own rights."
"We, the sex workers around the world, are strung together by a common motto that of achieving a legal status," says Durbar Secretary Asha Banerjee.
"It is unfair to discriminate people on the basis of their jobs. If doctors and lawyers have a legal social standing, why can't we?" she said
Durbar not only looks after the well being of women in the sex trade, but also assists them in becoming financially independent, writes Indrani Roy Mitra.
The organization working out of Sonagachi, Kolkata's red light district, one of Asia's largest, has become a name to reckon with even in international circles for its focussed approach towards anti-HIV/AIDS campaign. It has 65,000 sex workers as members in West Bengal.
Conceptualised by a city-based physician Dr Smarajit Jana, Durbar works round the clock to fetch a legal, professional status for sex work to help bring these women into the mainstream and fight poverty and discrimination
In March, Jeevan Madhur found only 199 buyers and in May, the number has leapt to an encouraging 3,000.
"LIC granting this policy to sex workers is just the beginning. That day is not too far when sex workers will be granted medical insurance cover for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS", said Chatterjee.
"If we have been able to convince LIC to launch a policy for women in sex trade, we have every reason to be optimistic that diseases like STD, HIV and AIDS will be covered by some policy some day."