Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah

Guest post by SAMHITA BAROOAH

During a visit to the Kishori Mandal at Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s Uttari Rampur Centre in Forbesganj I met some lovely girls. They stayed in the community near the red light area. They were eager to learn new things. They asked me my story of life, “Didi aapki kahani sunao? Aapne kaise yaha tak sangharsh kiya?” I was again very surprised to encounter the subversion of queries. I should have been the one to ask those questions to the girls, but they wanted to know more about me. Perceptual understanding is a perspective rooted in feminist standpoint theory which could apply to any context from the onlooker’s context. For the young girls from the Red Light Area in Forbesganj, I was trapped in some realities which connected me to them. That was why she asked me to share my story of struggle. When I said education enabled me to survive the world around me, they laughed and said that was not their story. They said, “For us we have to get married as soon as we are 18 years old but sometimes even earlier. We just want to enjoy our freedom now in this centre till we get married. After that we do not know what holds true for us.” As women whether we are in the Nat community of Bihar or we are in the liberated spaces of North East India, our identities get defined by our marriage, cultural practices and socialisation. Unbound freedom for women seems to be a misnomer which should be forbidden for women as the evolved souls say.

Continue reading “Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah”

Moral Police-Police!

 

The Kerala police has once more revealed how utterly unreconstructed it is since colonial times, in their brutal attack on transgender people in the city of Kochi. Stuck in 19th century Victorian morality on the one hand, and in the unabashed sense of power that only colonial authority can bequeath, these policemen thought it perfectly alright to use violence to correct what they perceive as a ‘moral problem’, sex work and that too, by transgendered persons. Continue reading “Moral Police-Police!”

Understanding the De- Criminalisation Demand: Aarthi Pai and Meena Saraswathi Seshu

Guest post by AARTHI PAI and MEENA SARASWATHI SESHU

STOP Panic around Sex Work; by conflating it with Trafficking

VAMP, SANGRAM and The National Network of Sex Workers, India (NNSW); a network of sex worker organisations, collectives, federations and unions from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh;  seek decriminalization of sex work. 

First, a quick distinction between ‘decriminalization’ and ‘legalization’.

Decriminalisation is the repeal or amendment of laws or statutes which make certain acts criminal, so that those acts are no longer crimes or offenses.

Legalisation, on the other hand, will mean regulation and control by the state authority ushering a zone specific ‘licence raj’ with mandatory health check-up, criminalizing defaulters. It could also mean criminalizing of some aspects of sex work e.g. clients.

The UNDP Global Commission on HIV and the Law stated that, “Sex work and sex trafficking are not the same. The difference is that the former is consensual whereas the latter coercive. Any point of view that casts “voluntary prostitution” as an oxymoron erases the dignity and autonomy of the sex worker in myriad ways. It turns self – directed actors into victims in need of rescue.”[1] Sex work is adult consensual provision of sexual services and must not be equated with sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. Continue reading “Understanding the De- Criminalisation Demand: Aarthi Pai and Meena Saraswathi Seshu”

Choice in the labour market – sex work as “work”

The summary of preliminary findings of the first pan-India survey of sex-workers is now available on-line.  3000 women from 14 states and 1 UT were surveyed, all of them from outside collectivised/organised and therefore politically active spaces, precisely  “in order to bring forth the voices of a hitherto silent section of sex workers.”

The significant finding is this: About 71 percent of them said they had entered the profession willingly.

(The data on male and transgender sex workers has not been processed yet).

The study was conducted by Rohini Sahni and  V Kalyan Shankar under the aegis of the Center for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalisation (CASAM),  supported by Paulo Longo Research Initiative (“a collaboration of scholars, policy analysts and sex workers that aims to develop and consolidate ethical, interdisciplinary scholarship on sex work to improve the human rights, health and well being of women, men and transgenders who sell sex.”). The study was supported by a large number of groups, organizations and individuals in each state, who helped to conduct the surveys.

This background is important, because it appears to be a study that is well grounded, and drawing on large networks of local interconnections.

Continue reading “Choice in the labour market – sex work as “work””