Delhi women’s commission head changes tune on sex work, says she is open to legalization

sex-workers-India

By Team FI
A meeting with National Network of Sex Workers and other organisations has resulted in DCW Chair Swati Maliwal accepting that she supports legislation of sex work. Though offering no apology, she said she was open to a consultative process with sex workers and NGOs working with them.

Following a statement submitted to the government by the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) and other organisations condemning the DCW’s chairperson Swati Maliwal comment on sex work being akin to ‘rape’, a meeting was arranged with DCW and members of the NNSW and other women’s organisation on August 6, 2015.

As per the NNSW, Swati Maliwal listened to their grievances and gave an explanation as to what prompted her statement. Maliwal stated that during her time spent at GB Road, Delhi, she had met with sex workers and NGO’s working in the area, she had been told by sex workers about their ‘ ‘plight’ as to how they had to sell ‘their bodies’ for rs. 50. She said many young girls aged 12- 13 are in a bad condition. Even older women have mental health issues. Maliwal said the women asked for “help and rehabilitation”.”

NNSW stated that they explained how sex workers who come from various states in India, join the profession “their own volition”. They stated that NNSW “believe sex work is work, that they advocate for safe working conditions for all sex workers and that they were against rehabilitation unless it was voluntary. “ NNSW pointed out the forced evictions in the name of rehabilitation in GB road.

As per the meeting minutes, “The network further clarified that women in sex work do not sell their bodies but only provide sexual services for money. NNSW said that one must visit GB road with a non moralistic perspective if one wants to help the women in sex work there. NNSW told her about the sex workers collectives and how powerful they are in working against trafficking and on decreasing HIV and AIDS in the country. The collectives also work on anti-trafficking and the best to discuss solutions to the problem of trafficking.”

The Chair, DCW stated that there is a need to understand decriminalization vs legalization debate and said that she is open to legalization and hold consultations with the NNSW. “There was a conversation with Sakina from UKMO, an NNSW member from Karnataka – “What if you get 1 lakh in other job do you want to continue with sex work?”. Sakina told her about dignity of earning her own living by her own means and explained how empowered she is and that she believes that like doctors and engineers she is also proud of the work she does,” states the notes from the meeting.

Though there was no apology, Maliwal indicated that she would like to start a pilot project in GB Road, and there would be no forced rehabilitation

The project would provide sex workers with alternative means of livelihood and would provide them with an income equivalent if not more than what they earn now.

NNSW states that they “told her what happens in Delhi impacts other parts of India. So we look forward to things and any negative thing can impact the lives of lakhs of sex workers”.

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