Tag Archive for sex workers rights

Delhi Women’s Commission head compares sex work with rape, sex workers groups protest


The National Network of Sex Workers and women’s organisations in India have strongly condemned Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), chairperson Swati Maliwal’s comment that sex work is akin to “rape” and needed to be eradicated. The sex workers organizations, in a statement released to the media, have demaned that Maliwal should retract her statement. They have also asked for an unconditional apology from Maliwal.

Following is the full text of the statement:
The National Network of Sex Workers and women’s organisations in India strongly condemn the observations and statement of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Ms. Swati Maliwal calling sex work and prostitution akin to “rape” and calling for its “eradication”. We call on her to immediately withdraw her statement and tender an unconditional apology to the all women in sex work, whose dignity has been impacted by her observations.

The Honorable Supreme Court has recognized the need to ensure that sex workers are able to live a life of dignity. The Court set up a panel to discuss “Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution.” (Budhadev Karmaskar vs. Government of West Bengal).

The Chairperson of DCW should do her homework before launching into a campaign that has not engaged with the ongoing debates and dialogues to recognize the rights of adult consenting workers to remain in sex work and ensure that their human rights and dignity are protected, such a short sighted and uninformed perspective demeans the office of a Commission set up to protect the rights and dignity of women.

How can Ms. Maliwal forget the immense contribution of the sex workers in reducing HIV transmission in this country? Today a large number of sex worker led organisations are leading the HIV response and doing invaluable peer based outreach and HIV prevention in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, National Aids Control Organisation, Government of India.

The remarks of the DCW chairperson that, the use of condoms is indicative of the extent of “rape being allowed in Delhi”; is blatantly uninformed and bigoted. Such uninformed statements from people in positions of authority have the effect of negatively impacting the HIV response. It is shocking that this statement comes from the Women’s commission at a time when women are fighting for recognition to the right to sexual health.

The United Nations, and various human rights organisations, activists globally and in India have called for an end to the conflation of trafficking and sex work, which criminalises and stigmatizes women in sex work. The Global Commission on HIV and Law calls on countries to “reform their approach towards sex work. Rather than punishing consenting adults involved in sex work, countries must ensure safe working conditions and offer sex workers and their clients access to effective HIV and health services and commodities… Take Complementary legal measures to ensure safe working conditions to sex workers.” And they must “take all measures to stop police harassment and violence against sex workers.’

The UN appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women in her India report submitted to the UN General Assembly in April 2014 also called on the Government of India to review its approach towards sex workers and ensure that their human rights are protected.

At a time when human rights movements, UN, Governments and civil society is moving towards a more rights based approach to sex work, this statement of a Commission that is required to uphold the rights of dignity of women, is truly condemnable!

1. Ms. Kokila, President, NNSW Tamil Nadu
2. Ms. Bharati, Vice President, NNSW Karnataka
3. Ms. Alivelu, Secretary, NNSW Andhra Pradesh
4. Ms. Sangeetha, Joint Secretary, NNSW Maharashtra
5. Ms. Sakina, Treasurer, NNSW Karnataka
6. Ms. Mukta, NNSW Board Karnataka
7. Ms. Deepika, NNSW Board Karnataka
8. Ms. Balanagamma, NNSW Board Andhra Pradesh
9. Ms. Shanti, NNSW Board Tamil Nadu
10. Mr. Sudheer, NNSW Board Maharashtra
11. Ms. Chandalekha, NNSW Board (Kerala)
12. Ms. Meena Saraswathi Seshu, SANGRAM, Sangli, Maharashtra
13. Ms. Aarthi Pai, CASAM, SANGRAM, Maharashtra
14. Ms. Shyamala Nataraj, Tamil Nadu
15. Ms. Meera Raghavendra, WINS, Tirupathi
16. Ms. Indumathi Ravishankar, SIAAP, Tamil Nadu
17. Mr. Manohar Elavarthi, Sangama, Karnataka
18. Ms. Shabana Dastgir Gaundi, VAMP, Karnataka
19. Ms. Durga Pujari, VAMP Maharashtra
20. Mr. Rajendra Naik, Mitra, Maharashtra
21. Mr. Sudheer Patil, Muskan, Maharashtra
22. Ms. Susheela Kunde Bai, Vidrohi Mahila Manch, Maharashtra
23. Ms. Mukta, UKMO, Karnataka
24. Mr. Gurukiran, Karnataka
25. Ms. Rituparna Borah, Delhi
26. Ms. Asma, Tamil Nadu

Pregnant Sex Worker Brutally Assaulted by Satara Cops

Sex workers India

Women’s groups in the country are demanding stern action against the policemen in Satara who assaulted a pregnant sex worker causing a miscarriage

By Team FI

Women’s organisations in the country are outraged that even after one month no action has been taken against the policemen who brutally assaulted a pregnant sex worker in Satara, Maharastra, causing a miscarriage. The incident occurred on 2nd  April,  around 7.30 pm, when Anu Mokal, who was four months pregnant, and Anjana Ghadge were bringing dinner for their friend who was admitted in the civil hospital.

When they were passing the Satara bus stand area, senior Police Inspector Dayanand Dhome started shouting at them using abusive language. When they told him that they were taking food for their friend, he allegedly called them liars. Dhome and his subordinates started beating Anu and her friend Anjana. Dhome repeatedly kicked them and said that women like Anu are a ‘shame’. Her pleas that she was four months pregnant fell on deaf ears. Anu and Anjana were detained and put in a lockup.

On the following day they were produced before the magistrate and were released after a payment of Rs 1200 fine for an offense not known to them. They were taken to the civil hospital by members of Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad [VAMP] an organisation that works among sex workers and Anu received medication.  However, on 5th April, she suffered a miscarriage.

Anu has filed a complaint against Inspector Dhome and his colleagues with the Satara Superintendent of Police M. M. Prasanna. SANGRAM, (an organisation that runs the Maharashtra State AIDS Society HIV/AIDS prevention project with women in sex work and sexual minorities in Satara District), has also sent a written complaint to the Home Minister R.R.Patil, SP M.M  Prasanna, and the Regional DIG Tukaram Chavhan, demanding that action be taken against Dayanad Dhome and others, but to no avail. DSP Prasanna told a delegation from VAMP on 30th April that an enquiry has been instituted but he did not commit as to when one can expect its result.

Sign online petition Justice For Anu Mokal

Sex Work: Speaking up for human rights

sex workers


Sex workers in a small town in Maharashtra, India, march for change on 3rd March, International Sex Workers Rights Day.

Either reviled or pitied by the state, society and social workers, sex workers – female, male and transgender – have now dared to break out of the victim mode and demand that they be seen as real human beings with rights, needs, fears, hopes and aspirations, just like anyone else. After decades of struggle, they are now slowly beginning to be recognized as persons and citizens.

Till date, for feminism, prostitution has symbolized oppression, victimization and the exploitation of womanhood. Feminism looks at prostitution through the framework of a rigid understanding of patriarchy, viewing it as objectifying women’s bodies, and as the commercialization of sex. Hence, for feminists, prostitutes are victims of unequal power relations between the sexes. No ‘real’ woman will agree to do sex work because if she does so she is living under the illusion of ‘false consciousness’. We hear activists talk of prostitution as ‘female sexual slavery’ and ‘sexual victim-hood’. These perceptions echo the early reformist discourse, which views women as needing to be protected, preferably by laws, from lustful men.

A complex issue that has troubled feminists is the question of consent. The women’s movement has raised the issue of consent in sexual relations mainly within the domestic / marital sphere. In prostitution, adult women consent to exchange sexual services for money, but this is disputed and the ability to consent is contested.

This is because feminism posits prostitution as violence, which forecloses any discussion over whether women can actively choose sex work as a livelihood option. Many women report entering sex work because of ‘majboori’ or difficult circumstances, mainly poverty, and this leads them

Sex workers Pride march India

Sex workers pride march : Photo courtesy VAMP

to think of sex work as a way of livelihood and thus work. But, without finding out the multiplicity of experiences, feminists have held that women are trafficked into sex work because of their vulnerability as women. Here, exchanging sexual services for money [sex work] is conflated with selling of a body to another [trafficking].

The basic tenet of anti-trafficking rhetoric is that bodies are unwillingly ‘sold’ and transported across borders. This dovetails perfectly with the feminist argument that prostitution involves no choice and is the major cause for trafficking. Trafficking is not viewed as an issue of poverty that causes many women to willingly enter into agreements with traffickers because they desperately seek livelihoods, escape from home-grown violence, poverty, conflict, or displacement – in short, a better life.

The movement to stop trafficking, by feminist and other groups favoring abolition, is therefore framed as the necessity to stop prostitution.The debates around trafficking also bolster the idea of sex work as violence. Violence against women (VAW) has focused on domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, acid throwing etc. When VAW is conflated with sex work, it becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees.

For example, most sex workers report that they experience violence and exploitation by and large at the hands of police and petty local thugs, rather than in sexual relations with clients. It is conveniently forgotten that a greater incidence of VAW occurs in marriages than between sex workers and their clients. Violence that does occur within the field of sex work is used to justify severe action against the sex work industry such as closure of brothels and ‘clean ups’.

The casting of the prostitute as the victim has engendered several positions on prostitution. Because women are conceptualized as ‘slaves’, one approach is to put a stop to prostitution in the literal sense – by demolishing it. The State and other establishments, such as NGOs, often use this abolitionist approach.

Sex workers pride march: Photo courtesy VAMP

Reformism, another feminist position, posits that women in prostitution need reforming because, as women who do sex work, they have no ‘character’. Rescue and rehabilitation strategies are used here. The assumption is that women need saving from sex work and then rehabilitation by giving them alternate jobs.

A third strategy, the regulatory approach, relies on laws. This does not take the stand of banning prostitution but rather accepts that prostitution is here to stay and needs regulation. Laws like the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 (ITPA) in India is a reflection of this approach.

Yet another approach is the rights-based approach – which is silent on the merits or morality of sex work, per se, but contends that women in sex work should have the same rights and entitlements as any other citizen, and the State must act as the duty bearer of these rights.

In India, prostitution is neither legal nor illegal. It has no status. We consider sex work as work, as a business, and do not consider ourselves as either criminals or victims.

In order for the stigma of discrimination to end, and fundamental rights extended to us to carry out our livelihood, societal perception must be transformed. To make the big change happen, small steps must be taken. To speak, to stand up and be counted is a step forward in the campaign for rights – the right to dignity, to work, to earn a livelihood, to education, to health and leisure – rights that are available to all citizens.

VAMP ( (Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad) based in Sangli, Maharashtra is an organisation for sex workers.