The All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) has released a charter of demands, which they are seeking political parties to include in their political manifestos. The collective of marginalised women, comprising of up to five million women, are demanding “better support system” to live with “dignity without stigma, oppression and police harassment.” They stress that if they do not get assurance from political parties then they will vote for NOTA (None of the above) while voting.
“For years, we have been protesting and staging demonstrations to fight for our rights to live with dignity in different states but no political party ever heard our issues. We file petitions in the courts and many people engage too by giving speeches. But when it comes to electoral politics and parties come up with manifestos, it is always devoid of rights and initiatives for sex workers,” Kusum, AINSW chief told SheThePeople.TV.
Demands in the Charter
The charter consists of seven demands in total including access to basic services, pension after the age of 45 years, participation in policy-making and implementation of programs, etc. They have raised the issue of discrimination and stated, “Children of sex workers face a lot of discrimination in accessing admission to schools and other institutions pertaining to career building opportunities. This has created an obstacle for them in becoming a part of the mainstream society. Children of sex workers are unable to get equal opportunities in development programs.”
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Provision for Pension
They demand inclusion of pension provision for female and transgender sex workers after 45 years of age. They say that they are not able to find work after that age because of the nature of their work. The Anti-Trafficking Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha without even consulting the potential stakeholders like sex workers. AINSW has sought due representation in policy-making bodies of the government and while parliament brings legislation pertaining to their lives and occupation. “We are seeking representation and participation in various committees from national-level down to Taluka-level focusing health, social welfare, women and child-development and education program.”
“Police often harass sex workers, put us behind bars or in horrible shelter homes against our will. There are several clauses in The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act that empowers police to harass on grounds of ‘soliciting’ clients, remove us forcefully from the brothels and even living on our earnings is prohibited for our kids,” said the manifesto.
“For years, we have been protesting and staging demonstrations to fight for our rights to live with dignity in different states but no political party ever heard our issues. We file petitions in the courts and many people engage too by giving speeches. But when it comes to electoral politics and parties come up with manifestos, it is always devoid of rights and initiatives for sex workers.”
It has been suggested that the Self-Regulatory Board (SRB) works the best in preventing human trafficking in sex work. SRB is formulated with the representatives of sex workers, trafficked survivors, doctors and legal experts and it assesses the will of women coming into this profession. It focuses on eliminating women joining sex work without their will and minor girls.
De-criminalizing sex work
Lastly, the collective also roots for de-criminalizing sex work as it makes sex-workers vulnerable to HIV, violence and pushes them to live in dangerous circumstances. The Supreme Court has constituted a panel which has put several recommendations to change the existing clauses of the ITPA to make the lives of sex-workers better and safer.