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Friday, 18 December 2009

Dera Sacha Sauda: Marry sex workers in Chandigarh

Dera Sacha Sauda: Marry sex workers in Chandigarh
More than 1,200 DSS members sign pledges to marry sex workers following a call from DSS chief Ram Rahim Singh

December 17, 2009
Chandigarh: More than 1,000 followers of Punjab’s multi-religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) have pledged to marry female sex workers who want to escape exploitation.

According to reports, followers of the sect have been queuing up at the Dera Sacha Sauda (Abode of the Real Deal) in the town of Sirsa as “wedding volunteers”.

They say they are doing so to stop the women from being exploited in brothels. They also claim that their move is part of a campaign to stop the spread of the HIV/Aids virus.

The controversial DSS, though hard to classify is considered by many to be an offshoot of Sikhism.

More than 1,200 DSS members have signed pledges to marry the sex workers following a call from DSS chief Ram Rahim Singh a little over a month ago.

Singh is said to command a following which consists predominantly of lower caste Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. In the past, the DSS chief has come into conflict with mainstream Sikh clergy who claimed he was trying to imitate their beliefs. In the sectarian violence that ensued across Punjab - as well as subsequent rape and murder charges brought against Ram Rahim Singh - have cast a shadow on the affairs and functioning of the DSS ever since, observers say. But the group’s supporters say the new campaign is to halt the spread of HIV by offering respectable options to sex workers and is part of a long list of related initiatives against drug abuse and female foeticide.

“By helping drug users and sex workers we are trying to help remove people from the highest risk situations,” said Dr Aditya Insan, a DSS functionary.

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