1995 – Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) set up in India

logo of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, India
“We Demand Workers’ Rights”

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), also known as the “Unstoppable Women’s Synthesis Committee’’ is a sex worker collective representing the interests of sex workers of all genders who primarily operate from Sonagachi, the largest red-light district of Kolkata, West Bengal, India. DMSC was formed in 1995, with 12 sex workers as initial steering committee members.

In 1992, peer education projects began running within Sonagachi. These projects were the result of a collaboration undertaken between sex workers and a public health scientist, Dr. Smarajit Jana (Dr. Jana).

Following monitoring and evaluation of the 1992 peer education projects, a study was undertaken which identified issues of significance and concern to sex workers. These issues including: a desire for meaningful sex workers rights; concern for their children’s education; strategies for dealing with ongoing police harassment, often in cahoots with self professed “goondas” (local thugs); and reticence from male clients to use safer sex prophylactics.

Subsequently, sex workers held community meetings in which they decided to form their own organisation. In 1995, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) was created with 12 sex workers as initial steering committee members. An approach toward self-organising was developed and adopted by DMSC. This approach, the 3 x Rs, involves Respect, Reliance and Recognition:

  1. Respect towards sex workers
  2. Reliance on the knowledge and wisdom of the community of sex workers and,
  3. Recognition of sex work as an occupation, for protecting sex workers’ occupational and human rights.
Festival stalls with English and Hindi text including "USHA Multipurpose Society Ltd"
DMSC stall at a mela (festival), 2011.