A restaurant that serves traditional south Indian food to guests is being run by sex workers and transgenders in Mysore city of Karnataka. This is a way of raising funds for HIV positive people and fighting social stigma.
Ashodaya, a small restaurant, opened in Mysore, is an enterprise run by 12 male and female sex workers and transgenders.
The restaurant named "Ashodaya Hotel" was opened with the aim of reducing discrimination and the social stigma attached to people from the sex-worker community.
"Initially public used to avoid us. They called us prostitutes. But this hotel belongs to our organisation. People gradually started coming to our hotel and sat and ate together. They shared our problems. In this way we are reducing the stigma on us and discrimination in our society," said Prathima, a sex worker working at the Ashodaya Hotel.
Ashodaya, as the name indicates, is a "Dawn of Hope" in the lives of several sex workers in the Mysore and Mandya districts.
Opened as part of the World Bank's entrepreneurial initiatives, the hotel is named after Ashodaya Samiti, an organisation of male, female and transgender workers in the city. It was opened on the occasion of World AIDS day.
With an investment of rupees 4 50,000, 'Ashodaya Hotel', the restaurant, has an daily income of Rs.3000 and the profits are used for organisation's activities, after setting aside money for monthly expenses.
"The money received from this hotel helps the HIV positive patients of our organisation. The money is being used for our care home," said Akram, a male sex worker and the organisation's secretary.he organization already runs a community kitchen where sex workers can have free food, because they often suffer discrimination in hotels, because of their profession.
A study carried out by the organization in Mysore showed that there were 1,420 female sex workers in the city. It also found that there were 300 male sex workers and about 50 transgenders. Ashodaya Samithi (organization) has brought the communities together under their umbrella to provide HIV services. By Jaipal Sharma