Sex Workers And Women’s Organisations Condemn DCW Chair Swati Maliwal’s Statement On Sex Work

[While in complete agreement with the statement posted below, I would like to add a personal note. I am a citizen of Delhi who believes that in its short stint in office so far, and despite every attempt by the central government to paralyze its functioning, the Aam Admi Party has taken decisive, creative and positive steps in several fields – education, health, and above all in its strong assertion that water is a natural resource that should not be treated as a commodity.

Nevertheless, it is unfortunately increasingly clear that on gender related issues, AAP’s functionaries exhibit the deepest conservatism – from Kejriwal’s speech on March 8th, which thanked his wife for keeping “his” home running, to Somnath Bharti on making Delhi safe enough for even “beautiful women” to be out at night, as if sexual violence is a tribute and compliment to the beauty of women, to Swati Maliwal’s aligning herself with the deeply conservative abolitionist position on sex work.

This conservatism is at odds not only with “elite activists”, as AAP may think, but with the views of the majority of ordinary people, who poured out into the streets after December 16th 2012, and sent scores of petitions to the Justice Verma Committee, expressing basically the belief in the rights of all women to public spaces at all times, and condemning victim blaming; sex workers are ordinary people too, and so are housewives, who even while they run homes with devotion and efficiency, are not unaware of the unfairness of the shared domestic space being considered to belong to the husband and “his” family. A March 8th message could have recognized women in their different roles, as housewives, domestic servants, CEOs, political activists. As a party that has learnt from other social movements, AAP needs to urgently start a conversation with women’s organizations of different kinds, including sex workers’ organizations.]

The statement follows:

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!

For further information please contact: National Network of Sex Workers – @ Meena Saraswathi Seshu – 09011660444. @Aarthi Pai – 07350707200

Signed

  1. Kokila, President, NNSW Tamil Nadu
  2. Bharati, Vice President, NNSW Karnataka
  3. Alivelu, Secretary, NNSW  Andhra Pradesh
  4. Sangeetha, Joint Secretary, NNSW  Maharashtra
  5. Sakina, Treasurer, NNSW  Karnataka
  6. Mukta, NNSW Board Karnataka
  7. Deepika, NNSW Board Karnataka
  8. Balanagamma, NNSW Board Andhra Pradesh
  9. Shanti, NNSW Board Tamil Nadu
  10. Sudheer, NNSW Board Maharashtra
  11. Chandalekha, NNSW Board (Kerala)
  12. Meena Saraswathi Seshu, SANGRAM, Sangli, Maharashtra
  13. Kavitha Krishnan, AIPWA
  14. Madhu Mehra, PLD, New Delhi
  15. Aarthi Pai, CASAM, SANGRAM, Maharashtra
  16. Shyamala Nataraj, Tamil Nadu
  17. Meera Raghavendra, WINS, Tirupathi
  18. Indumathi Ravishankar, SIAAP, Tamil Nadu
  19. Manohar Elavarthi, KSWU, Karnataka
  20. Anjali Gopalan, New Delhi
  21. Laxmi Murthy, Journalist, Bangalore
  22. Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai
  23. Bishakha Dutta, Point of View, Mumbai
  24. Chayanika Shah, LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Bombay
  25. Kalyani Menon – Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships, New Delhi
  26. Mary E John, New Delhi
  27. Monalisa Mishra, HIV/AIDS Alliance, New Delhi
  28. Pramada Menon, New Delhi
  29. Sanghmitra Iyengar, Karnataka
  30. Shubha Chacko, Karnataka
  31. Rituparna Borah, Nazariya, Delhi
  32. Shabana Dastgir Gaundi, VAMP, Karnataka
  33. Durga Pujari, VAMP Maharashtra
  34. Rajendra Naik, Mitra, Maharashtra
  35. Sudheer Patil, Muskan, Maharashtra
  36. Susheela Kunde Bai, Vidrohi Mahila Manch, Maharashtra
  37. Mukta, UKMO, Karnataka
  38. Gurukiran Kamath, Karnataka
  39. Asma, Tamil Nadu
  40. Nisha Gulur, KSWU, Karnataka
  41. Shantilal, SANGRAM, India
  42. Shashikant Mane, SANGRAM, Maharashtra
  43. Radhika Desai, Hyderabad
  44. Anubha Singh, Feminist researcher and activist, New Delhi
  45. Sutapa Majumdar, Pune
  46. Paromita Vohra, New Delhi
  47. Rajesh, Sangama, Karnataka
  48. David, Sangama, Karnataka
  49. Prabhakar, SIAAP, Tamil Nadu
  50. Vijaya Kumari, Jyothi Mahila Sangha, Bangalore, Karnataka
  51. Dilfaraz, Samara Society Yeshwanthapur, Bangalore, Karnataka
  52. Manjesh, Aruna Trust, Ramanagar District, Karnataka
  53. Akaya Kumar, Love Land Arts Society, Kollam, Kerala
  54. Satish Joshi, Karnataka
  55. Kiran A.V, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  56. Sarah Islam, Kolkatta, West Bengal
  57. Deepan Kannan, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  58. Merlin Francis, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
  59. Himanshu Trivedi, Barrister and Solicitor, New Zealand
  60. Pushplatha R. Swathi Mahila Sangha, Karnataka
  61. Hari Prahlad, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  62. Samir Gupta, Ghaziabad, UP
  63. Moulee, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  64. M, Salma, Savitha, Rathna, Sumathi – Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bangalore
  65. Salma, Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bangalore
  66. Savitha – Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bangalore
  67. Rathna, Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bangalore
  68. Sumathi – Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bangalore
  69. Shakun Mohini, Vimochana, Bangalore

Organisations

  1. National Network of Sex Workers
  2. Karnataka Sex Workers Union
  3. Vadamalar federation
  4. Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad
  5. Muskan
  6. Mitra
  7. Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha, Maharashtra
  8. SANGAMA, Karnataka
  9. South India AIDS Action Project, Tamil Nadu
  10. LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Mumbai
  11. Samraksha, Karnataka
  12. WINS, Tirupathi
  13. Uttara Kannada Mahila Okkuta, Karnataka
  14. Jyothi Mahila Sangha, Karnataka
  15. Aruna Trust, Karnataka
  16. Loveland Arts Society, Kerala
  17. Swathi Mahila Sangha, Karnataka
  18. Me and My World, Andhra Pradesh
  19. Ananya, Kerala
  20. Saheli, Pune
  21. Nazariya, a Queer feminist resource group, New Delhi
  22. Vidrohi Mahila Manch, Sangli
  23. Aneka, Bangalore
  24. Vimochana-Forum for Women’s Rights, Bangalore

4 thoughts on “Sex Workers And Women’s Organisations Condemn DCW Chair Swati Maliwal’s Statement On Sex Work

  1. Ved Rathee

    AAP Govt is doing wonderful work and has taken path break ing initiatives. At places their views are not pragmatic, but best thing is that after realising mistake in approach AAP has corrected itself inhasitatingly. Here also the need to be told.

  2. MEENAKSHI PURI

    ‘water is a natural resource that should not be treated as a commodity’. Yet humans- male, female and other categories- become commodities and objects of lust in sex work, don’t they ?

  3. My arguments on this: http://www.indiatomorrow.net/eng/swati-maliwal-ray-of-hope-for-bonded-queens-of-night

    I tried to call Durbar, the NGO working for the legalization of the profession, but their communications, officer, even though my batch mate, didn’t respond to my calls or SMS. And I know it very well, how organizations like Durbar, who advocate legalization and yet exploit the sex workers…same applies to all people who go in favor of these pulpy demands and condemnation. This is an industry, run by these people and that is the only reason why they want this to go on….Money is everything…Besides, these folks also seem to downplay the multi-billion unorganized sex rackets running all over Delhi or any city. Sex workers are bonded labourers, and legalization is not the solution. I dare ask those who signed this petition…how many girls have you saved so far from being humiliated every single day 30/40/50 times? The people, like Shakti Vahini, who save at least one girl a week have told me an entirely different version…You can go through my piece for this.

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