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The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Template:Lang-bn Durbar Mohila Shômonbôe Shomiti "Unstoppable Women's Synthesis Committee") or Durbar, is a group of over 65,000[1] sex workers, set up in 1995[2] 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 ostracism 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[3] and, for a secure social existence of sex workers and their children. They work for 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.[4] 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.

The book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide reports investigations revealing that, contrary to stated policy, the DMSC allows sex slavery, trafficking, and underage girls in its brothels.[5]


  1. 'Self-regulation for sex workers in Sonagachi, Indranil Chakravorty, The Financial Express, 19 Dec 2005'
  2. A missionary enterprise Frontline Volume 22 - Issue 08, Mar. 12 - 25, 2005
  3. Sex workers demand labour rights on May Day DNA India - Tuesday, May 01, 2007 17:52 IST
  4. The Songachi project is 12! NGO Connect The Shakti Newsletter Issue 18 - Jan / Feb 06
  5. Kristof, Nicholas D.; Sheryl WuDunn. 2009. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

External linksEdit

Template:Prostitution in India