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