Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee

The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee or Durbar, is a group of over 60,000 sex workers, set up in 1995 and based in West Bengal, India. The Durbar is active in challenging barriers that form the everyday reality of sex workers' lives as they relate to their poverty or their social ostracization with the aim of altering them.

The group is overtly political in its aims of fighting for the recognition of prostitution as legal work and, of sex workers as workers and, for a secure social existence of sex workers and their children. They work for the the legalization of prostitution and seek to reform laws that restrict human rights of sex workers.


The Durbar runs the STD/HIV Intervention Programme (commonly known as the Sonagachi Project) since 1999. The ownership and management of the Sonagachi Project was taken over by DMSC from the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, a central government public health training and research institute based in Kolkata, which had initiated the programme in 1992. After gaining control of the STD/HIV Intervention Programme in 1999, DMSC began replicating the Sonagachi model in other red light areas in West Bengal. DMSC also implements STD/HIV intervention Programme among street-based sex workers and their clients, covering a population of over 20,000 sex workers and migrant labourers. DMSC currently implements and runs STD/HIV intervention programmes in 49 sex work sites in West Bengal.

The approach of Durbar's program is based on the 3 Rs - Respect, Reliance and Recognition. Respect towards sex workers, Reliance on the knowledge and wisdom of the community of sex workers and, Recognition of sex work as an occupation, for protecting their occupational and human rights.

Durbar is active in building broader alliances to promote HIV prevention, care and support for HIV infected and affected individuals and families both at the national and regional levels.

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