Target: Sovan Chatterjee, Mayor of the City of Kolkata
Goal: Enact swift justice for the murder of Kabita Roy, and honor her life’s work by protecting the rights of sex workers in India.
Kabita Roy, the president of an organization which lobbies for the rights of sex workers in India’s largest red light district, was recently murdered. Roy was found strangled, and with her head smashed in, in an upstairs office of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, the organization of which she was president. Herself a former sex worker, Roy had been a member of Durbar for 24 years and quickly rose to hold an influential position. Her untimely death represents a major blow for the organization and its mission, and will also be the first high profile murder in the red light district. (Sonagachi, where Roy’s murder took place, is the largest red light district in all of South East Asia, home to an estimated 11,000 sex workers).
The murder may have had something to do with two teenaged girls who were under Roy’s care after having been rescued just days earlier from Bowbazar, a nearby area where sex work is also prominent. The girls were residing temporarily at the Durbar office in Sonagachi, and are now missing. Police sources have not denied that a human trafficking racket may be behind the murder – the deputy commissioner commented that “after a round of preliminary investigation it is difficult to reach a conclusion… but involvement of a human trafficking gang cannot be ruled out.” Other members of Durbar seem positive that an influential gang is behind the murder, as well as the apparent kidnapping of the two young girls.
Activists risk just about everything when they go against the grain, devoting themselves to work that they believe is important. In a just world, they would not pay for their courage with their lives, but we know that this happens in many places. When it does, a gap is left behind, which may be filled either by fear or action. Do not let the human trafficking murderers be the victors in this case. Sign our petition to demand justice for Kabita Roy, and urge the government of Kolkata to step up in filling the void left by her death.
Dear Mayor Chatterjee,
I was sorry to hear about the recent death of Kabita Roy in Sonagachi. Her loss will be strongly felt by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, an organization whose work I believe is extremely important. However, it will be even more of a tragedy if her passing represents a setback in the rights and security of sex workers in Sonagachi.
Police, along with other members of Durbar, believe that a human trafficking gang may be behind Roy’s murder. At the time she was killed in the Durbar office, two teenaged girls were staying there under her care after having been rescued earlier that week. They are now missing.
You must do everything in your power to find the perpetrators of this crime and ensure they are brought to justice. Criminals cannot be allowed to intimidate activists who are fighting to make a difference for the better. In honoring Roy’s life and her important work, you must ensure respect, recognition, and protection for sex workers in Sonagachi and elsewhere, and provide resources for their children. This is an important human rights issue, and I hope you will take action immediately.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jon Gresham