Widows, Sex Workers in India Live in Problematic Condition: Dutch Activist Saskia Wieringa


Dutch activist Saskia Wieringa, known for her work on women's same-sex relations and women's empowerment, has worked for over 30 years in Indonesia on women's issues and described the state of widows and sex workers in India as "problematic".

Wieringa has authored a book on comparisons between Indonesia and India, following research in Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra among other states. 

"The position of widows is really very problematic in comparison to Indonesia. There is a big difference," Wieringa said on the sidelines of the National Queer Conference. 

"Everybody feels sorry for her and people see them as sexually available but they can take up jobs (in Indonesia). 

"But in India the way heterosexual marriage is seen as a holy tie, makes for violence in relationships that don't work anymore and it ties a widow to her in-laws and that leads to a lot of violence and subordination," said the 60-year-old professor affiliated to the University of Amsterdam. 

According to Wieringa, compared to their Indian counterparts, sex workers in Indonesia have possibilities of "finding life beyond sex work". 

"Once you are a sex worker you die as a sex worker in India. But in Indonesia, there's more flexibility and it's better to find a life beyond sex work — to get married, to have children," she said. 

The much awarded academician also hailed the Indian Supreme Court's landmark judgment on third genders. 

"That's a big step forward. If it goes all the way, if it is also interpreted all the way, then all forms of gender diversity are acceptable, not just one particular form," she added.