Kolkata, Feb 3: The All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) and other sex workers’ community-based organisations (CBOs) Monday demanded that their opinions be taken into account in policy-making across all fields.
The participants, at the end of a six-day sex workers’ festival here that began Jan 28, also pressed for the inclusion of their community in party election manifestos.
“One of their key issues is the exclusion while framing policies that also affect them … for example, policy-making in the areas of AIDS and HIV infection. So, they want a representative from their community to be present during policy-framing,” said Smarajit Jana, advisor to AINSW.
“Be it livelihood, be it health, education or other fields, we want a representative from our community to forward our views during policy-making,” said Sultana Begum, a sex worker from Rajasthan.
In the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the participants criticised politicians for neglecting their rights. Be it the Aam Aadmi Party or the Bharatiya Janata Party or Congress, they expressed dissatisfaction that the politicians do not even attempt to understand their problems.
Kusum, a sex worker from the national capital, said: “We will boycott the elections if our community is not given any importance in their manifestos.”
Kusum said if the community is recognised by the government then society will start accepting them.
However, Bimla, a representative with the Centre For Advocacy and Research, said it is essential to “forge a link” with society and “become part of the mainstream” and, therefore, collectivisation is necessary.
The other issues raised by the sex workers were social security for their children, pension for retired sex workers and legalisation of their profession.
“Besides pension for retired sex workers, there must be provision for those who can’t continue because of HIV infection … What will happen to them? They can’t earn through the profession because of the infection and will also not get accepted in any other job,” said Kusum.
As for the legalisation of the profession, they said changing the tag of sex worker will not do any good.
“It is a profession just like a driver or hawker, etc. So, why should we change our name? It should be legalised,” said Begum.