Maharashtra – Kids of transgenders, sex workers don’t need father’s name for school admissions #Goodnews


, TNN | Jun 4, 2013,

MUMBAI: Transgenders and those in the flesh trade will find it easier to educate their children. In order to make the admission process hassle-free for kids from such sections of the society, the state government has instructed schools not to insist on father’s name and address proof for such children during school admissions under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Last week, a government resolution to this effect was issued by the school education department.

“Under the RTE Act, it is mandatory for all private educational institutes to give admission to the children of sex workers and transgenders as these sections of society are also included in the mandatory 25% reservation for the poor and backward class children,” said a senior government official.

School education minister Rajendra Darda said, “Every one in society has the right to get education. The education department is committed to the effective implementation of the RTE. Accordingly, the GR has been issued by the department for the marginalized sections of society.”

Seema Sayyed, manager, Aastha Parivar, a federation of sex workers working in Mumbai and Thane, welcomed the government’s initiative. “Sex workers don’t get the benefit of any government scheme as in most of the cases, they do not have any address proof. Now with the DF government issuing a GR, which categorically states that schools should not insist on father’s name and address proof, it will benefit a large number of our community members,” Seema Sayyed added.

However, gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi said that by issuing the GR, the government’s responsibility does not end. “The administration will have to ensure that kids from these sections of society get proper treatment in educational institutes,” Kavi added.

 

Mumbai – Critique of Maharashtra Women Policy- 2013 submitted by Women Groups #Vaw #Womenrights


CRITIQUE OF MAHARASHTRA WOMEN POLICY- 2013

SUBMISSION BY- MUMBAI WOMEN GROUPS AND ACTIVISTS

MAY 10TH 2013, Kamayani Bali Mahabal

The Mumbai Women groups and  activists submitted their critique to the Women  and Child Welfare Minister Varsha Gaikwad, at the   committee meeting held today for finalisation of the women policy. The committee has 11 members .

The submission stated that the  portrayal of women across the policy document reinforces gender stereotypes. The policy does not recognize women’s exploitation as a larger structural or systemic issue. The State continues to see women’s issues as ‘women’s problems’. An issue observed across the policy is that of referring to women as victims or pidit . The policy document typifies women as needy of welfare. So women are portrayed as victims and thus deserving of a piece in the development pie.

The objectives of the policy are very general and do not respond to the changing contexts and the current situation of women. It does not refer to any current data on women at the State level, for example, increasing caste violence, informalisation of labour in agriculture and otherwise, lowered sex ratio, honour killings, conditions of waste-pickers, sex workers, etc. The Policy with a very generic understanding of women’s concerns would lead to providing generic solutions

The policy is not framed within a rights based framework and this is evident from the titles of the sections which are for example day care centre, toilets, women’s hostels etc. The use of the term “adult unmarried women” (praudh kumarika)., assumes that all women have to be married by a certain age and those who cross that age would be referred to as adult unmarried women. So here we still function within the framework of family and marriage as the final goals to be strived for women. Anything outside of the family framework is treated as a problem to be addressed. In another place the word kalavantin has been used to typify women folk artists. The policy is oblivious of the fact that such a usage carries a very different connotation in terms of class and caste histories of exploitation. These and similar such usages probably would befit discussions in the 18th and 19th century but not so in the 21st century by which time we have benefited from learnings from the movement and feminist scholarship.All through the document sex selective abortion is referred to as female foeticide and this despite the fact that women’s movements have been crying hoarse over its use.

One of the very disturbing statements is regarding Sexual violence the reasons for which are attributed to mental illness amongst men or sexual distortions. One of the major contributions of the women’s movement has been to prove that violence is rooted in power and hierarchies whether they are related to case, class, gender, religion. Unfortunately the policy recognizes this not as an issue of broader systems and structures but one of individual malaise. The understanding of sex work also suffers from a similar problem. The entire discussion around sex work is under the broad title of sexually exploited women. Organisations working on the issue of sex work have time and again stated that sex work is not only about sexual exploitation. The policy should be explicit and state sex workers as sex workers and not try to portray them as ‘socially acceptable victims’

The policy is silent on the more pressing needs of the State, with its non committal on the reinstating of the women’s commission and its democratic functioning.. The policy comes across as a stand alone document with no forward or backward linkages. It does not take stock of the achievements of the past policies and neither does it mention the gender indicators which it wants to improve upon.

Below are some detailed critiques of chapters of the Policy Document

Chapter 5 – Awareness /Participation by NGOs….
• Instead of transferring the responsibility to NGOs the government should take full responsibility and take the onus of coordinating and networking with NGOs. They should become equally accountable to them.
• A trained social worker/ Counsellor should be appointed in every school and not a trained social volunteer as suggested to prevent student suicides
• Schools to be guided to undertake programmes/ activities with the purpose of bringing about awareness on gender equality
• The Censure board should include a member working on women’s issues
• When the nodal agency WCD makes training modules they should take inputs from NGOs experienced in that area before finalizing them
Miscellaneous
• The age limit for hiring a woman in crisis to a low cadre government job should be pushed back to 50, as many women between the ages of 35 and 50 years have never worked, and would therefore find it difficult to be seen as “employable”, making them vulnerable to poverty and further hardship, and exacerbating their crisis.
• Refresher training on gender issues to be offered to the police as well as school and college teachers at least once a year.

• MEDIA
• The provisions to grant powers to women commission, for approrpiate actiosn is very vague and arbitrary, unless they are defined .The issue of . Filming / video graphing in media of anything that is vulgar with a commercial purpose or insulting womanhood will be discouraged and such attempts will face legal actions. Rights of reinforcements in these matters will be assigned to an independent agency such as the Women Commission. Again, what is ‘vulgar with a commercial purpose’? Item numbers? Is every item number vulgar? How do we determine which ones harm women? How will such filming be discouraged? What on earth is the ‘rights of reinforcement’?. The policy document says formulating the censor board’ what does it mean, are they proposing a new censor board . The State policy should look at ways in which media can be used to empower women, instead of viewing media only through this punitive lens. This is very one-sided.
• Chapter 6- Education
Under the National Program for Education of girls at Elementary Level every blocks under each district of Maharashtra runs ‘Kasturba Gandhi Residential Schools. These schools are meant for girls and especially for those girls who are being employed as child labour and/or involved in home based work. Every school consists of 100 girls, due to which they could complete their education. Therefore we request that such programs must be implemented at all block levels. Today, it’s been functional only in few districts.

• Today most of the rural schools in Maharashtra do not have separate toilets for women school teachers and girls students. Therefore, separate toilets needs to be constructed for them.

• Every school must have complaints box, so that girl students who wants to complaint of sexual harassment can complete and report about the same. Also, there as to be redressal mechanism to address issues of sexual harassment at every school level.

• In spite of instituting monitoring committees at residential schools levels, which is suppose to hold meetings, submit regular reports to the higher authority, they do not act properly. Therefore there has to be a strict rules and regulations laid down for the same.

Chapter 9- Health

The Chapter on Health does not see women’s right to health as an individual in her own right and but simply as a mother, wife or daughter . The present policy however states the importance of women’s health more because it impacts the health of the child and the society at large. There is no mention of the social determinants of women’s health: poverty, caste, patriarchy as leading to poor nutrition, lack of access to medical care, etc in this section.

The promises such as a counselling centre per public health centre or every district will have a women’s hospital, the policy or the State absolves itself of providing basic primary health care for all, are very unrealistic .It shows disconnect with the ground reality wherein there are no well-functioning PHCs themselves or not stocked with basic medicines — iron and calcium for example for women. Rather than sensationalising the policy by giving everything “women special” there is a need for a more rational and sensitive health service in the State with focus on women, Dalits, tribals and other socially and economically discriminated sections.

• The Policy states about doing a new women health project, Instead of implementing yet another project, efforts should be made to gender sensitize other public health programs.
• Secondly the onus cant be on women alone, the accountability and responsiveness by the State needs to be mentioned.
• The Women’s orgs, NGOs and academic institutions should become obvious choices but they are not mentioned.PPP should not be an excuse by the State to wash its hands off from providing the services, instead, clear guidelines should be formulated to operationalise PPPs. T
• The Gender sensitivity programs should be across all carders of health care providers. It can’t be assumed that Physicians and those at decision making levels are sensitive.
• The policy should examine longer term strategies for addressing the social determinants of health. These are intended to highlight ways that gender inequality and health inequities (between women and men and between differing groups of women) can be addressed.
• To emphasize the importance of gender as a key determinant of women’s health and wellbeing.
• To recognize that women’s health needs vary according to their life stage.
• To prioritize the needs of women with the highest risk of poor health.
• To ensure that the health system is responsive and accountable to all women, with a clear focus on illness prevention and health promotion.
• To support collaborative research, monitoring, evaluation and knowledge transfer to advance the evidence base on women’s health.
• Instead of targeted health insurance , there should universal access to health care.
• Malnutrition is severe among women, the State should come up with a clear plan to combat it.
• Terminal care is needed for all women.
• Efforts will be made to improve women’s freedom to make decisions in regards of health and family planning.
• Special provisions should be made for health care for women in institutions such as prisons, shelter homes, women’s hostels, beggar homes etc.

In Chapter 15– Women and Law

Government of Maharashtra will adopt following measures for effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
• Provide safe working environment to its women employees at its workplaces which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace.
• Display at any conspicuous place in the workplace’ the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the Internal Complaints Committee.
• Organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions of the Act and orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Committees in government offices.
• Provide necessary facilities to the Internal Committees or the Local Committees, as the case may be, for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry.
• Provide assistance to the woman if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force;
• Cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for time being in force, against the perpetrator, or if the aggrieved woman so desires, where the perpetrator is not an employee, in the workplace at which the incident of sexual harassment took place;
• Treat sexual harassment as misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct.
• Monitor the timely submission of reports by the Internal Committee.
• Notify a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate or Collector or Deputy Collector as District Officer for every District to exercise powers and functions under the Act.
• Monitor constitution of LCCs by the District Officers and appointment of Nodal Officers to be appointed by the District Officers in every block, taluka, tehsil in the rural area and in every Ward in the Municipal Corporation area.
• The Central government to pay State Governments grants of sums of money for payment of fees and allowances to be paid to the Chairperson and Members of the LCCs
• State Government to set up an agency to transfer the grants to the District Officer.
• The appropriate Government shall monitor the implementation of this Act and maintain data on the number of cases filed and disposed of in respect of all cases of sexual harassment at workplace. (Section 23).
• Receive the reports and monitor collection of annual reports to be received by the District officer (Section 21).
• Monitor the timely submission of reports furnished by the Local Committee to the district officer (Section 20).
• Monitor the measures taken by the District Officers for engaging non-governmental organisations for creation of awareness on sexual harassment and the rights of the women. (Section 20).
• Imposition of penalty on employers for non compliance with the provisions of the Act. (Section 26)
• Cancellation, of his license or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration for repeated non compliance to the Act. (Section 26)
• In the public interest or in the interest of women call and inspect records relating to sexual harassment from any workplace through the District officer (Section 25)
• Authorise officers to make inspection of the records and workplace in relation to sexual harassment, who shall submit a report of such inspection (Section 25)
• Provide finance and other such resources to develop relevant information, education, communication and training materials, and organise awareness programmes, to advance the understanding of the public of the provisions of this Act providing for protection against sexual harassment of woman at workplace (Section 24)
• Provide finance and other such resources to formulate orientation and training programmes for the members of the Local Complaints Committees. (Section 24)

PWDVA
• Wider publicity should be given by the government not only to women and girls, but also to men; government officials should set an example.
• Sensitizing police officials is not enough. Make them accountable through administrative and penal provisions if they refuse to assist the woman who complains of domestic violence.
• Protection officers – need to be trained as well as monitored. There has to be a system of accountability; more protection officers need to be appointed as the present number is inadequate.
• NGOs can play a complementary role, but the responsibility of implementing the Act cannot be outsourced to NGOs, as it is essentially a state responsibility.
• Political will to implement the Act needs to be exhibited through an adequate budgetary allocation and provision of required infrastructural facilities for personnel under the Act.
Suggestions regarding Special Court / Family Courts:
• Travelling allowance to needy women who attend court – proper criteria needs to be set, to avoid ad hocism and discrimination.
• For every court date, working women need to take half day or full day leave, which results in a loss of earning. Appropriate measures need to be taken to address this problem.
• Vacancies in family courts need to be filled up promptly to ensure that pendency of cases does not increase.
• Family court judges need to be trained to inculcate a gender perspective – they should not prioritize saving the marriage at the cost of physical security and mental well-being of the woman.
• There has to be a system of regular updation of knowledge of family court judges, and a proper system of monitoring the judgments delivered and the perspective with which such judgments are delivered.
• The state free legal aid service needs to be strengthened; legal aid lawyers should be competent professionals with integrity, who should undergo adequate training; women should not be subjected to harassment and demand of bribe by the legal aid lawyers.
• Fast track courts, if started, should not compromise over rights of the accused to a fair trial, and should follow the safeguards in law to balance the interests of the accused and the complainant.
Helplines for Women
Clarity is required on the following issues:

It is positive step that government has announced setting up of 1091 as a helpline number. The most important is that it should be placed within the police control room and should be operated by Police personnel and should be supported with regular trainings of police personnel and adequate publicity for the number to be known to people so that it can be effectively used by women in crisis. There should be a standardize catergorisation across the state and there should be systematic documentation of calls, action taken.

Elderly / Senior Women
• Its important to train police officials to be sensitive to the difficulties faced by the elderly, particularly elderly women
• They should not be called to the police station often
• Stringent action should be taken against police officials who refuse to register a complaint by elderly women, and against those who take a bribe from their relatives

Trafficking of Women

• The government needs to de-link trafficking and sex work completely, as trafficking of women and girls is done not only for sexual exploitation but also for cheap and exploitative labour, for forced marriage, adoptive or other intimate relationships.
• Ensure proper and effective implementation of Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA);
• Issue strict directions to law enforcement officials to act bona fide and with due diligence;
• Take strict action against public officials who are complicit in or connive with the perpetrators in trafficking of women;
• Ensure that women’s human rights including the right to dignity and privacy are respected at all stages of the legal proceedings, including at the time of registration of FIR, investigation and prosecution;
• Provide free legal aid to trafficked women, and protect them from intimidation / threat / coercion from the traffickers;
• Issue directions to all law enforcement and health officials not to conduct mandatory medical examinations on trafficked women, including for HIV / AIDS; the same is to be conducted only on a voluntary basis, if requested by the woman concerned;
• Provide adequate, confidential and affordable medical and psychological care to trafficked women,
• Ensure that strictly confidential HIV testing services are provided only if requested by the woman concerned, and any and all HIV testing is accompanied by appropriate pre- and post-test counselling;
• Any state initiatives for ‘rescue and relief’ of trafficked women should be conducted in a planned manner, with the participation of civil society groups, and after putting in place provisions to meet the needs of trafficked women;
• In contexts of inter-country trafficking, repatriation of the women to their country of origin should be resorted to, only after due consideration of the woman’s wishes;
• Provide directions to state enforcement officials not to detain trafficked women in nari niketans / government-run homes or institutions, as the trafficked women have committed no crime and their rights have to be respected;
• The state has to address the issue of trafficking, not only through a law and order approach that focuses on criminal law, prosecution and punishment, but through a human rights approach that keeps the trafficked woman’s right to privacy, dignity and other human rights at the centrality of state response.
• Strengthen measures to alleviate poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity, as well as educational, social and cultural measures to discourage the demand that fosters exploitation and leads to trafficking, particularly of women
• Provide adequate livelihood opportunities for rural women in order that migration is not the only means to secure reasonable wages and an adequate standard of living
• Address the structural causes of violence against women to ensure that migration is not resorted to as a means of escaping from violence and discrimination at the place of origin
• Put in place gender-specific interventions for contexts of natural disasters, displacement, political instability, civil unrest, internal conflict including communal violence, as such contexts exacerbate women’s vulnerabilities and may result in an increase in trafficking;
• Mandatory testing for HIV, as conceived of in the women’s policy, is violative of women’s human rights. Instead, women should be given information and raise their awareness about the advantages of testing.

Shelter

• The condition in Maharashtra government’s shelter homes is despicable, and does not provide a safe environment for women to live in, due to many incidents of sexual exploitation and rape in shelter homes. A social audit of all shelter homes operating in the state is required urgently.
• Ensure that all shelter homes are registered under the relevant laws, and that provisions for frequent monitoring of the conditions of the homes are implemented
• At present, women are so terrified of shelter homes that they would rather tolerate the violence in their matrimonial homes. This situation needs to change for the better, if the Maharashtra government is serious about empowering women.
• Ensure that shelter homes are provided with adequate facilities and a clean environment for the physical and mental well-being of the inmates
• Counselling, psychiatric and medical services should be provided
• Surprise checks should be conducted to ensure the proper management of shelter homes
• Financial audit requires to be done, as required.

Implementation of the Section 498 (A) IPC

1. In depth and intensive multidisciplinary research and documentation in the area of violence against women and law are required. There should be concerted efforts for coordinated research projects involving stakeholders like the police, judiciary, women’s organisations and academic institutions.

2. Capacity building for skilful investigations of crimes against woman will help in sensitive handling of cases. A protocol or ‘drill’ for investigation in cases of Section 498A IPC should be developed. The focus should be on women as citizen’s experiencing violence within the family.

3. Capacity building to enable the Criminal Justice System to uphold mental violence as legitimate evidence and render legally relevant facilities in cases of mental and emotional abuse will help address the current situation. Mental violence should be treated at par with physical violence.

4. The judicial decisions of compounding/reconciliation in cases of Section 498A should be critically reviewed through research.
PCPNDT ACT

The Policy says In order to make the PC-PNDT law provisions mandatory, the government will form a new protocol under PC-PNDT Act and will strictly implement it. This is a central act and they cannot make their own protocols. The State needs to ensure implementation of law without backlash on the right to abortion to women.

A recent survey conducted in the slums of Mumbai by Women Networking (an informal network of community organizations, NGOs and individuals) has revealed that while 65% of the respondents (out of 700) were aware of the law on sex selection only 24 per cent knew that abortion is legal in our country. This high-level of awareness of PCPNDT Act is an outcome of the government’s efforts to save the girl child, but it has inadvertently resulted in mortality rate as high as 8% among women who are forced to approach ill trained health practitioners for abortions, because of poor awareness on women’s right to abortion. In Mumbai, the medical shops are directed not to sell drugs & injections related to abortion and contraception without a prescription from authorized doctors. The Maharashtra Policy needs to ensure that under no circumstances the right to abortion as stipulated in the Medical Termination of tHE Pregnancy (MTP) Act be curtailed.

Limiting access to safe abortion methods only pushes women towards unsafe methods, thereby endangering their health and survival. Monitoring women buying pills from pharmacies is regressive as it undermines the confidentiality aspect of abortion and can lead to harassment of women at the hands of officials. Such regulations are discriminatory and curtail autonomy of women over their own body, right to dignity and right to benefit from advances of science, medicine and technology.
Sex selection is a phenomenon which emerges from gender discrimination and socio-economic bias. All efforts to prevent sex selection must seek to address issues of gender discrimination, instead of further constraining women’s access to safe abortion services

Chapter- 19- Physically disabled and mentally challenged women

The chapter on women with disabilities finishes in 12 lines , which says a lot . The language should be women with psycho social disabilities and not physically disabled and mentally challenged . The Women with disabilities do not need ‘ Sypmathy” as the policy document says but ‘Empathy. Clubbing them with senior citizens is not at all justice to their needs and rights . They need more of integration with society and the so called normal citizens need to be sensitized with issue and concerns of women with psycho social disabilities especially the teachers , than, having special schools. The Policy only addresses physical access to transport and does not even touch upon the issue of forced psychiatric interventions and institutionalization. These acts of violence are done under the legal authority of the state, and in pursuance of wrong and discriminatory state policy, and there is no possibility of redress, emphasizing the message of all violence that tells the victim she is powerless.

There have been instances for forced sterilization were in the range of 5-7% for the combined group and 7.5% for women with mental disabilities. The high incidences of sterilization of women with disabilities happen because families and community do a role reversal viewing them as incapable of motherhood, which goes unchecked. Unjustified administration of drugs {tranquillizing the woman to ‘shut her up’) or withdrawal of drugs also comes under the realm of physical abuse. We see regular over medication of patients. There is no prescription audit and we are demanding it. Over medication is leading to patients having serious side effects and not being able to participate in the rehabilitation programs

Voluntary admissions, hospitalization and discharge favor men more than women. A study of five mental hospitals in the state of Maharashtra revealed that while men are admitted to hospitals for treatment in the early stages of diagnosis, women are “dumped” here only after their illness turns chronic ie when they turn dysfunctional and are unable to comply with their social roles. The policy needs to address
1. The Gender Gaps in Mental Health Treatment
2. Marriage and Lack of legal aid in rural areas
3. Stop Institutionalization
4. Initiate Community linked programmes
5. Legally ban forced sterilization of girls
6. Make policies which are more catered towards the needs of the women with disabilities.
7. Audit and monitor on a regular basis to make sure the implementation of these policies.
8. Bringing in accessibility features so as to make access to enforcement agencies and various redressal mechanisms easier and available.
9. ECT is used in most hospitals without permission
10. Punishment of erring officials and duty bearers.

Chapter 23– Sexually Exploited Women

This policy conflates trafficked women and those that are in sex work of their volition.
This is a deliberate attempt to ignore the supreme court who in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal , wherein a regular criminal appeal relating to the murder of a sex worker in Kolkata was converted into a broader PIL to look into the issue of rehabilitation of sex workers. A panel was constituted by the Supreme Court order
dated 19.07.2011 with the following terms of reference:
• Prevention of trafficking,
• Rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work, and
• Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in
accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution (as modified by the order of the Supreme Court dated 26.07.2012).The Policy by the state of maharashtra clearly conflates all the three above instead of following the orders of the supreme court of India.

Chapter 24- Transgenders (Sr.No 24)

A welcome move to include transgender, the policy only suggests ‘preventive measures’ for stopping people from being transgender. It suggests that this can be done through monitoring pregnant mothers and hormonal levels. The policy shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding of the issue. One of the reasons cited for being a transgender is “under too much influence of women” or the reason for being transgender as a ‘distortion’, which reflects the level of empathy among the government for people’s choices.

• Definition of Transgender is absolutely incorrect – archaic words such as gender deformity, chop of their genitals etc are used.
Alternate definitions
- Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. (American Psychological Association)

- Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex -) ^ a b Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. ‘’GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender glossary of terms”‘’GLAAD’’, USA, May 2010. Retrieved on 2011-02-24.)

- Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, ect.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing. Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man.
http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms#transgender ; Retrieved on 08-05-2013)
• Lesbian and bi-sexual women have been totally ignored in the policy -They need to be included
• The paragraph on preventive measures makes no sense and should be scrapped
• There is a complete welfare approach adopted rather than a rights based approach in the policy as far as transgenders are concerned
• There is no need for having a separate comprehensive Act for them to live a life of Dignity. The constitution already provides these rights. The changes are required through rigorous sensitization of stake holders and civil society and creation of structures to enable them to get their basic rights.eg modification of all official documents to include a sex option apart from male and female etc.
• Need to incorporate non-discrimination and equal employment opportunities in public and private organizations as well.

The Submissions by- Women Organisations / Networks and Individual activists
• Akshara
• Forum against Sex Selection- FASS
• Jan Swasthya Abhiyan- Mumbai
• Point of View
• Sneha
• Veshya Mukti Morcha
Individuals -
• Anagha Sarpotdar
• Kamayani Bali Mahabal
• Saumya Uma

Maharashtra- From Drought to dhandha #Vaw


Published:  Sunday, Mar 31, 2013, 0:27 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Purnima Ahire speaks haltingly in English with a pronounced Marathi accent, an attempt that draws a round of laughter from the women huddled in a lane near Ashok Talkies outside Thane station.

“Kai English madam dhandha karayla aali ka kai (An English madam has come for sex work)?” says one of them, setting off the others again.

The 21-year-old from Umerga, Osmanabad, clams up. Her mentor Renuka Varahade, 34, puts an arm around her and tells her to ignore them. “Many who come for dhandha can’t even write or speak decent Marathi. Purnima has studied till Class 11, so they are envious,” she says.

Purinima’s sister’s wedding two years ago put her father in debt. Unable to withstand pressure from the local money lender after his crop failed, he drank a bottle of pesticide in January. Besides her mother, Purnima now has to support her sister and brother, so she decided to find work.

“Renukatai knew my mother. She told her I’d find work as a domestic help in Aurangabad. Once I found out the nature of the work, I called home to tell mother. She cried, but said I must cope to help the family,” says a blank-faced Purnima, whose family thinks she works as a maid. “If I keep crying, will that feed my family? Here Tai protects me and I get to send money home,” says Purnima.

Brothel-keeper Pushpa Malepu admits that new arrivals from drought-hit parts of Maharashtra have increased: “Earlier they came from poor families, but now even educated girls from families who have lost everything to crop failure in the last 2-3 years are taking to the sex trade.”

The profile of Mumbai’s sex workers is changing. At one time, 75% of sex workers in the city were from Nepal. Traffickers then shifted focus to Bangladesh where regular floods and poverty ensured new recruits. There came a point when one in every three sex workers in Mumbai was Bangladeshi.

Activists in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik admit that more educated Marathi-speaking girls are being pushed into the sex trade. This is like the situation following the drought of 1972, when 70% girls in the trade were from Maharashtra (Marathwada), Karnataka (Raichur-Gulbarga), and Andhra Pradesh (Rayalseema) — areas worst hit by drought.

“Now, there are more Marathi-speaking girls being pushed into the trade,” says Pravin Patkar, founder-chairman of Prerana, an organisation working with sex workers since 1986.

Patkar says the first signs of distress were seen last during Diwali, when sex workers started migrating to Mumbai from the drought-hit belts of Vidarbha and Marathwada: “With the overall drop in purchasing power, work became scarce, forcing them here. This shows the levels of distress. Unless interventions are put in place, the number of new recruits from these regions could rise rapidly.”

Indu Bhalerao, 36, is one such sex worker. She left Latur for Mumbai last September because of the lack of clients. “Here I can at least have food. In Latur, I didn’t have enough to provide for my family in my village, and was going hungry myself.”

Bharti Lad is a 23-year-old from Jalna district of Maharashtra. “Our family owned a sugarcane field which was divided after a family dispute. My father lost his share as he ran up huge debts paying off lawyers two years ago. We started working as labourers. Now, since there’s no water, there’s no work. We even had to sell the cow to the butchers,” she says in chaste Marathi. Bharti lives in a flat in Malad. “Regular customers mean I have enough to send at least Rs5,000 back home every month.”

The women waiting outside closed shop-fronts near Ashok Talkies are hungry and settle for a quick meal of bhurji-pao. “After 11pm, the police come… To avoid lafda (trouble), many of us head home,” says Purnima, who cannot resist checking herself in a broken mirror on the bhurji pao cart.

Renukatai hails an auto to take them to their hovel at the base of Parsik Hill at Kalwa (East), where two more girls stay. It’s past 11.30pm and the autowallah tries to get fresh. “Same place?” he leers in the rear-view mirror, eliciting a quick retort from the feisty Renuka, who spits out gutka and asks him: “Where else? Do you want to take us home to meet your mother?”

p_yogesh@dnaindia.net

@powerofyogesh

#India- ‘Voluntary sex work is legal’ #womenrights #goodnews


Published: Sunday, Mar 24, 2013, 9:00 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Sex workers and women’s rights activists have welcomed the government’s move to differentiate ‘prostitution’ from exploitation in the amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code.

By inserting a new definition of exploitation, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013 passed by Lok Sabha clarifies a position that till date conflated consensual adult sex work and sex trafficking: ‘Expression “exploitation” shall include any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.’

“This formulation clarifies the government’s stand of removing adults voluntarily involved in sex work from the ambit of criminalisation,” said Meena Seshu, from the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW). “This has given a new lease of life to people who are in the sex trade of their own volition, and enables them to seek legal protection if they face violence while working.”

A written clarification issued by the Justice Verma Commission on the framing of the amended Section 370 helped strengthen this stand. “Their intention behind recommending the amendment to Section 370 was to protect women and children from being trafficked. The Committee clarified that it did not intend to bring within the ambit of the amended Section 370 “sex workers who practice of their own volition”.

Madhu Mehra of Partners in Law and Development said, “The distinction between sexual exploitation and consensual adult sex work is very significant as it enables the sex workers and their advocates to legally contest oppressive and forced sex work towards creation of safe and dignified work conditions for sex workers.”

Legislations such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act has been criticized by human rights activists, organisations and sex workers, on the grounds that the legal provisions have given law enforcement, unbridled powers of arresting and detaining consenting adult sex workers. “Instead of focussing on arresting traffickers, due to ambiguity within the law, adult consenting sex workers were the first targets,” said advocate Vrinda Grover.

@powerofyogesh

 

The feminist and the sex worker: Lessons from the Indian experience


Himal Mag
Despite decades of tension between feminists and sex workers, it is finally becoming clear that the former has much to learn from the latter.
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Photo: Alessandro Vincenzi

From the earliest days of ‘second wave’ feminism, the issues of choice and consent have been central to feminist thought throughout the world. Much of early feminist analysis focused on how patriarchies manifested themselves in terms of male control over women’s lives: their sexuality and reproduction, their mobility, their work, employment and assets, and their access to and participation in the public realm. This control not only constricted the range of women’s choices, but often denied their right to make choices at all. The issue of consent was fraught with far greater political complexity, and viewed by many feminists with some suspicion, since it was widely used by anti-feminist and religious ideologues to justify gender discrimination. Feminist thinking on consent – connoting acquiescence, willing acceptance or even active support – therefore appeared more often in the context of women’s ‘false consciousness’, as a manifestation of women’s co-option into maintaining patriarchal rule. In terms of both choice and consent, few issues have been more rigorously debated in recent decades than that of sex work; but today, it seems that feminism itself has quite a bit to learn from sex workers.

In the Indian context – on which this article focuses – analysis by both scholars and activists has addressed the question of feminism’s ambivalent approach to sex work and sex workers, and the implicit lack of understanding of how choice and consent operate in this realm. There are several possible roots to the feminist dilemma: unconscious internalisation, for example, of Brahminical patriarchy and Hindu nationalist reconstructions of the home and family as a sanctified site of ‘pure Indian-ness’, and the role of women’s chastity and sexual exclusivity in maintaining this purity. Similar constructions of women as guardians of communal identity, purity and the highest moral values were visible among Muslim and Christian communities as well.

These historical and social processes basically constructed women’s bodies, particularly their sexuality and ability to reproduce, as capable of maintaining or polluting caste and communal purity. Combining with tenets of Brahminical Hinduism – which permeated not only other castes through what sociologist M N Srinivas termed the ‘Sanskritisation’ process, but non-Hindu communities as well – a sliding scale of chastity was prescribed. Oppressed-caste women had to be sexually monogamous within marriage, but simultaneously available to upper-caste men, while upper-caste women’s chastity was non-negotiable and strictly imposed through the additional measures of restricted mobility and seclusion. Some parts of women’s bodies naturally became more sacrosanct than others – the vagina, for instance. As such, a woman who sold the labour of her hands and feet was still considered a good woman, no matter how filthy or arduous the work, or even if she belonged to an untouchable caste; but one who sold sexual labour was beyond the pale. So, while sex workers were part of the social landscape in every part of the country, they were symbols of the fall from grace that kept ‘good women’ under chaste control.

In this writer’s opinion, this is the hidden heart of the matter. Emerging from societies that held women’s sexual organs as a vehicle both to purity and pollution, Southasian feminists were, until recently, unable to critically examine the patriarchal underpinnings of this paradigm. The first sign of this internalisation was in the tacit hierarchy that emerged in forms of violence against women, where rape became implicitly categorised as the most heinous crime a woman could suffer. It could be argued that this was mainly due to the stigma attached to the rape victim, where the social consequences that ensued were far heavier than, for instance, a victim of domestic violence, who would at least be pitied or receive some grudging acknowledgement, if not justice. In a sense, rape was like leprosy – leading to social ostracism – while domestic violence was like tuberculosis, which, though far more contagious, elicits sympathy and support. But this difference in feminist reaction could also have been due to feminism’s deeply embedded but unquestioned sense that violation of the most sacrosanct part of a woman’s body was the ultimate, and therefore most unforgivable, expression of male dominance and control.

Therefore, sex work and sex workers presented a unique challenge to the feminist discourse, and resulted in several positions (or divides) in feminist approaches to sex work. But at the root has always been the fundamental dilemma: How could feminists accept prostitution – the sale of sexual services by women to men – as a legitimate form of employment, when it represented the grossest expression of women’s commodification? For many feminists, only two options seemed acceptable: to treat the individual prostitute as a victim lacking in agency, one who symbolises the ultimate oppressiveness of the patriarchal regime, and who is in need of rescue and rehabilitation; or as women of false consciousness, morally decrepit agents of the patriarchal system, whose work results in the oppression of other women. However, given that a large number of India’s feminist founding mothers came out of left political parties, a third strand also emerged. This line of thought did not engage in moral judgment, but instead argued that because sex work is a form of work, all labour rights and protections must be extended to sex workers.

Meanwhile, underlying all these feminist positions was the basic assumption that a world without sex work would be a better place – therefore making them political bedfellows of religious and political conservatives engaged in campaigns against sex trafficking.

Not hapless victims
In India, encounters between organised sex workers and feminist groups have been infrequent and strained. Sex-worker organisations have never been invited to participate in national conferences of women’s groups; in fact, in the early 1990s, a tentative attempt by a local sex-workers group to attend such a national conference created acute discomfort among the organisers, who rejected the request on grounds that the group did not constitute a ‘feminist’ organisation. Sex workers are puzzled by why the dialogue with feminists is predicated upon an assumption that they must renounce – or, at least, express an intention to renounce – their occupation, or reiterate the ‘hapless victim’ mythology. For their part, feminists wonder why sex workers expect their support on issues such as violence, police harassment or legal reform, while making their occupation itself a non-negotiable.

Another curious element in feminist approaches to sex work has been the tendency to isolate analysis of sex work from other forms of work performed by women, including those from similar classes, skill levels and mobility. Studies of women workers in the unorganised sector, both in India and elsewhere, have repeatedly underlined high levels of exploitation, sexual harassment, poor working conditions, violence at the hands of employers or agents, wide range of health hazards, and lack of social security and legal protection. Almost all of these studies, as well as the experiences of activist and women’s organisations across India, testify that poor women in a range of informal-sector occupations routinely face sexual exploitation and violence – the supposed hallmarks of sex work – as well as a form of trafficking, when they migrate in search of livelihoods. Consequently, feminist organising within the informal sector has been imbued with the assumption that women have the agency and capacity to challenge their exploitation and mobilise for their rights within these occupations. For some reason, however, the nature of their victimhood has been viewed differently from that of women in sex work, an equally informal occupation.

The only right that sex workers have been able to mobilise for has been to be ‘rescued’ from sex work itself. Indeed, the only time a link is made between women workers in general and sex work in particular is to argue that one of the negative impacts of economic reforms is the migration and entry into sex work of women from impoverished families. Thus, analysts like Manjima Bhattacharya argue that sex workers are marginalised from three directions: ‘the criminality associated with their work, the morality that keeps them ostracised, and the informality of their labour which deprives them of bank accounts, insurance, or employment security.’ She concludes: ‘Recognition of their labour and economic contribution is one of the first steps in mainstreaming sex workers and according them dignity and rights.’

Ironically, religious and political conservatives have usurped some feminist discourse on sex work in their anti-sex trafficking crusades. Outlining a series of assumptions and positions on prostitution adopted by some feminists and anti-trafficking groups, researchers Sandhya Rao and Cath Sluggett have written:

Traditionalist and conservative groups use the feminist construct that prostitution violates women per se, but their argument has very little to do with women’s equality. Rather they feel that prostitution threatens traditional sexual arrangements … The anti-trafficking movement has drawn upon radical feminism, evaluating prostitution as that which degrades all women. This is connected to a wider analysis of power and male domination. Radical feminists would [deny] that their arguments are based in morality; yet the moral message is evident in their claims … an idea of female sexuality that is contaminated by sex and all the more so when sex is separated from love and exchanged for money. None of these understandings leave room for the female sex worker to speak of her own subjective experience. In this way, the depiction of the sex worker as a subjugated, helpless victim, living a life of misery, needing rescue and rehabilitation, becomes essential to justify the anti-trafficking movement. In fact, this has little to do with the reality or self-image of sex workers themselves. Seizing upon stories of atrocities of rescued sex workers, while ignoring the empowered narratives and analysis of sex-worker organisations and movements, is a studied and conscious process.

The rapid pace of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Subcontinent, and the demonisation and targeting of female sex workers in prevention rhetoric and programmes, finally brought some feminist activists – especially from the health sector – into a closer alliance with sex-workers organisations. The injustice of focusing on sex workers as significant carriers of the disease, rather than their male clients, brought at least some feminist groups to support sex-worker organisations in pushing for condom use and the right to reject a client believed to be infected. These organisations were also able to demonstrate that, when organised, the capacity of sex workers to choose safe sex, or even to refuse to service non-compliant clients, was far superior to that of the majority of Indian women.

Over the course of this long and rather torturous historical relationship, many feminists – including this writer – have slowly come to re-examine the approach to sex work. This reappraisal has been largely due to the growing visibility, views and compelling analysis of sex-worker movements in India and beyond, and the open challenges that these have thrown to feminist organisations and the national women’s movement as a whole. The turning point occurred at the National Autonomous Women’s Conference, held in Kolkata in 2006 after a gap of nearly a decade, where women of all backgrounds from across the country came together to share their experiences. Unlike previous such gatherings, however, this one included women with disabilities, hijras and, most conspicuously, sex workers – and the latter strongly voiced their views. Thus, over the past few years a new dialogue has begun, and many feminist scholars, researchers and activists are beginning to listen and learn, rather than lecture or prescribe.

The citizenship approach

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Art: Venantius J Pinto

Organised, politically aware sex workers are making their claims within a new framework. A composite of their arguments for visibility, voice and rights would read something like this: We may not have had a choice about whether or not to do sex work, or the other choices available to us for livelihood and survival were worse. When and if we find better alternatives, we ourselves will change occupations. But for now, we consent to be in this occupation, or we choose to remain in it as the most economically advantageous option at this time. We are neither victims nor harlots, but citizens. We demand recognition as workers and all our rights as citizens.

What can feminists learn from this? First, the views of organised sex workers and their movements are framed within the discourse of citizenship rights, an approach that feminist analyses of sex work have never used. At its most basic, citizenship is defined as the relationship between an individual and a particular state, and defines citizens as having both rights and responsibilities within those settings. However, feminist critiques of this theory have addressed the ways that this kind of definition fails to address unequal power dynamics, such as based on gender, race, class, etc. Organised sex workers, among other politically marginalised groups, have been able to push for the recognition of this discrimination and hold the state and its machinery accountable to them.

This claiming of citizenship rights places sex workers in the same space as other marginalised and ‘illegalised’ constituencies; the claims made by, for instance, slum- and pavement dwellers are very similar. What is striking is that in embracing the citizenship approach, both sex workers and other groups facing exclusion and stigma are shifting the debate to new ground, away from the arenas of moral probity and social sanction and towards citizen rights. Certain organised sex workers’ groups have negotiated such rights with town municipalities, the police and even politicians – the successes of the VAMP collective in negotiating basic services with the municipality and improved protection against violence from the police in Sangli town, and of the IFPEC network’s electoral poll boycott to gain political support for their demands in Chennai, are excellent examples. The state and local authorities have been forced to deal with these women as citizens, not as sex workers; in so doing, they have demonstrated their choice of equality and refusal to consent to discrimination.

Another lesson comes from the possibilities that open up because of the way sex work breaks down otherwise rigid moral and social boundaries. While in no way seeking to minimise the enormous range of problems that sex work entails, we must also recognise that for women, sex work can paradoxically be liberating: they no longer have to behave within the parameters of the ‘good’ woman, or observe the cultural norms, taboos or submissiveness typically expected of other women. In such a situation, women sex workers are free to make choices that are not available to their ‘good’ sisters. They can speak openly, for instance, about the violence, humiliation and duplicity of clients, police, pimps, lovers and the larger community in a way that poor women in the mainstream of society often need years of consciousness-raising to emulate.

Of course, this kind of voice and power requires organisation. The evidence is quite clear, for instance, that ‘upmarket’ individual sex workers actually have less power to set the terms of their work than poorer but organised women working in brothels or red-light districts. And like unorganised-sector workers everywhere, unorganised sex workers are exploited by the structures of the sex industry itself – by brothel owners, pimps, police and others. On the other hand, even unorganised sex workers are no worse off than other unorganised workers, whose hours, low wages, health hazards and lack of social security receive scant attention from state machinery.

The further lesson for feminists here is that despite decades of organising among diverse classes of women, feminist movements have not been as successful in catalysing this sense of liberation in the most intimate sphere of women’s lives – their relationships with their own bodies, or in their sexual lives. As a consequence, feminists have collectively been far less effective in enabling women to negotiate sexual interaction with their partners –ensuring condom use, or not consenting to sex when they are ill, in advanced pregnancy, or simply too tired, for instance – that organised sex workers consider a right. Furthermore, even the limited choice that organised sex workers have in setting the terms of their trade appears more advanced than what has been accomplished through organising among other unorganised women workers, with a few notable exceptions. Indeed, it is hard to find examples of movements of unorganised women workers that are as vibrant, visible and vocal, or have made as many significant gains, as sex-worker movements have accomplished for their members in some parts of India.

Lessons from sex workers
Even within the domain of sexuality, sex-worker movements are pushing feminist theory by re-positioning sexual services – and, hence, the entire morass of choice and consent – in a fundamental way. They have taken sex out of the domain not only of morality but of the relationship paradigm entirely. The members of these movements are saying that providing sex can be a relatively uncomplicated physical service similar to nursing or cleaning. Therefore, it can also be a livelihood choice: one can freely consent to be in sex work, especially for those whose skill set and socio-economic location restricts access to ‘better’ work.

Organised sex workers also seem to suggest that when they mobilise politically conscious movements, they can assert equal or greater power and control than women in equally un-regulated sectors of the market. For instance, they can negotiate condom use, working hours, time off, housing and habitat, and health care; they can also choose clients, choose the kinds of services they will provide, and resist and penalise violence of various kinds. And they seem to be telling feminists that condemnation of sex work is evidence of their own co-option into the patriarchal belief system, an unquestioned acceptance of the mythology of the sanctity of sexual interactions.

Finally, sex-worker movements are breaking through the rhetoric of the ‘poor, hapless victim’, and of the stranglehold of external actors in setting the terms of the discussion. Sex workers are becoming the subjects of their own analysis, breaking free of this ideological and conceptual stranglehold. They are asserting their consent to be involved in sex work – whether they entered it by choice or not – and consequently challenging the victim imagery. But more importantly, they are making shocking and uncomfortable arguments about their choice in remaining within the line of work: that it gives them a higher income, more purchasing power, better long-term economic security and independence, and far less drudgery than the other options available to them. How can members of such a dubious, stigmatised profession make such seemingly audacious, non-victimised claims? Further, how many feminist movements can claim to have parleyed their organising into the sort of political power that many sex-worker movements have demonstrated?

If feminists such as myself re-examine our views in light of the radically different perspectives offered by sex-worker movements, we would almost certainly arrive at a different definition of notions of choice and consent. We would recast choice not as just ‘real’ or ‘false’, but as occurring within a spectrum that is defined by context. Consent would be looked at as not only a manifestation of ‘agency’ within socially recognised institutions (marriage, family, state, market) or for socially acceptable alternatives, but as the right to choose a social situation outside of these structures. A long-term partnership for the production of new paradigms and strategies is the need of the day, and I believe that sex workers are a key source of learning for the future of the feminist project. The question is whether we have the humility and courage to ask for a seat at their table, rather than invite them to ours.

~ Srilatha Batliwala is a scholar associated with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, based in Bengaluru.

March 3-International Sex Workers Rights Day- demand for decriminalisation of Sex work #Vaw #Womenrights


March 3, 2013,  Kamayani Bali Mahabal

The 3rd of March is International Sex Worker Rights Day. The day originated in 2001 when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex worker festival. The organizers, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group whose membership consists of somewhere upwards of 50,000 sex workers and members of their communities. Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3 March as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (2002): “We felt strongly that that we should have a day what need to be observed by the sex workers community globally. Keeping in view the large mobilization of all types of global sexworkers [Female,Male,Transgender], we proposed to observe 3rd March as THE SEX WORKERS RIGHTS DAY.

Durbar seeks to build a world where all marginalized communities live in an environment of respect, rights and dignity. Durbar hopes for a new social order where there is no discrimination by class, caste, gender or occupation and all individuals communities live in peace and harmony as global citizens.The Durbar MissionDurbar’s shared mission is to enhance a process of social and political change with an objective to establish, promote and strengthen the rights, dignity, social status, and improvement of the quality of life of all sex worker communities. Durbar wishes to integrate the sex workers movement with the broader global movement to establish rights of all marginalized communities in the globe through.
Improvement of image and self-esteem of marginalized communities.Influencing existing norms, policies and practices, operating at all levels in the society and out the nation state.Empowering communities through a process of collectivisation and capacity building and Addressing power relations within the trade and outside. Durbar is also Building Formal and informal alliances with individuals, groups, institutions and movements..

Research has demonstrated that the criminalization of sex work is associated with violence against sex workers, decreased access to health care, barriers to reporting human rights abuses, and disempowerment in condom negotiation (whether a sex worker’s wishes regarding condom use are respected). Governments should recognize and address the relationship between laws criminalizing sex work and the human rights violations that result from these laws.

Affirmation and defense of the rights of sex workers as an integral part of our work to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.   International Sex Workers Rights Day isn’t just about securing the rights of sex workers; it’s about securing human rights.

Sex work is criminalized either through direct prohibitions on selling sexual services for money or through laws tha tprohibit solicitation of sex, living off of the earnings of sexwork, brothel-keeping, or procuring sexual services.Inaddition, sex workers are frequently prosecuted for non-
criminal offenses—often municipal-level administrative offenses—such as loitering, vagrancy, and impeding the flow of traffic. By reducing the freedom of sex workers to negotiate condom use with clients, organize for fair treatment, and publicly advocate for their rights, criminalization and aggressive policing have been shown to increase sex workers’ vulnerability to violence, extortion, and health risks.
Decriminalization is an issue of gender equality and sexual rights.Laws against sex work intrude into private sexual behaviors and constitute a form of state control over the bodies of women and transgender women, who make up a large majority of sex workers worldwide.like state controls over reproductive rights and limits on abortion, criminal laws prohibiting sex work attempt to legislate morality without regard for bodily autonomy. Decriminalizing sex work is a step in the direction of recognizing the right of all people to privacy and freedom from undue state control over sex and sexual expression.
Decriminalization refers to the removal of all criminal and administrative prohibitions and penalties on sex work, including laws targeting clients and brothel owners. Removing criminal prosecution of sex work goes hand-in-hand with recognizing sex work as work and protecting the rights of sex workers through workplace health and safety standards. Decriminalizing sex work allows workers to access financial services like bank accounts and insurance and other financial services.
Moreover,decriminalization means sex workers are more likely to live without stigma, social exclusion, and fear of violence.To effectively protect the health and rights of sex workers,governments must remove all criminal laws regulating sex work, including laws that criminalize the purchase of sex. Systems that maintain criminal penalties for clients who purchase sexual services continue to put sex workers at risk. Rather than ending demand for sex work, penalties on clients force sex workers to provide services in clandestine locations, which increases the risk of violence and limits the power of the sex workers in the transaction.When sex work is decriminalized, sex workers are empowered to realize their right to work safely, and to use the justice system to s eek redress for abuses and discrimination.Even if sex work is decriminalized, the prostitution of minors and human trafficking can and should remain criminal acts.
Criminal laws contribute to social marginalization not only through the imposition of legal penalties on sex workers prosecuted for specific acts,
but also through the assignment of criminal status to all sex workers,regardless of any particular arrest, charge, or prosecution.This sweeping
condemnation leads to widespread discrimination, stigma, and illtreatment in social institutions and services, by health providers, police,
and the general public. Decriminalization removes one source of stigma,the criminal label that serves to validate mistreatment or social exclusion.

In India, Sex workers are unhappy with Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations which, according to them, equate human trafficking with sex work and define prostitution as exploitation.The proposed Section 370 in the ordinance seeks to include prostitution as a form of exploitation. If this is accepted, it would criminalize sex workers since it does not differentiate between coercive prostitution and prostitution. Neither does it talk about the exploitation of prostitution.

For decades we have been demanding decriminalization of sex work, dignity of labour for sex workers and protection from exploitation by various sections of the society, including clients, goons and police.Terming prostitution ‘exploitation’ contradicts the Supreme Court which upheld the rights of women employed in sex work while observing that Article 21 grants them a right to live with dignity.

It also goes against the commitment made by India, which is a signatory and has ratified the UN Protocol on human trafficking in 2011.

According to this, Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.Instead of protection of sex workers, the ordinance will make them more vulnerable to exploitation and snatch away their livelihood.The inclusion of voluntary and consenting sex work into the definition of exploitation has angered sex workers.It will be a big setback to our struggle to get recognition of sex work as work, social protection for sex workers and assuring them workers’ rights.

The first pan-India survey of female sex workers was done  in 2011 under the aegis of Centre for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalization, Sangli, was conducted by Rohini Sahni and V Kalyan Shakar of the Department of Economics, University of Pune. This unique survey documents the lived realities of sex workers; delves into the complex details of their day-to-day interactions; the stigma and marginalization they experience and attempts to understand the challenges they face as well as their complex responses. The survey pools together a large national level sample of 3000 unorganized sex workers from 14 states. The women who participated in the survey are from various geographies, ages, family backgrounds, languages, sites of operation, migratory patterns, incomes and cultures.

The videos below

 

Sex worker saves girl from getting into flesh trade #goodnews #Vaw


 

23 Feb 13
Nashik (Maha), Feb 23, 2013 (PTI): \

A 14-year-old girl was rescued by police from a red light area here, thanks to a sex worker.

According to police, the girl’s “uncle”, identified as Vjay Bhika Dive, brought her to the city by promising to buy her new clothes and tried to sell her to a pimp.

But the women who he had approached for selling the girl, instead tipped off the Bhadrakali police, which rushed to the spot, and called the girl’s parents, who are residents of nearby Dindori town.

While the girl was handed over to her parents, Dive was handed over Dindori police for further action.

 

 

One Billion Rising # Mumbai- Feminist Film Festival @7dec-9dec #Vaw


 

Highlights from the mumbai edition of

 

OUR LIVES…TO LIVE

(NO!to gender violence

(films of courage, protest, hope)

 

7-9 Dec 2013

FD Zone Auditorium, 10th Floor, Films Division, 24 Dr G Deshmukh Marg (Peddar Rd), Mumbai-400026

 

 

Selections from WOMEN MAKE MOVIES (WMM) special package

 

Friday 7 Dec at 12.10 pm 

Sarabah (Maria Luisa Gambale, Gloria Bremer / USA-Senegal/ 60 min)

Rapper, singer and activist Sister Fa, a childhood victim of female genital cutting (FGC), travels back to her home village in Senegal, where she fears she and her message against the practice will be rejected. Yet she speaks out passionately to female elders and students alike, and stages a rousing concert that has the community on its feet.

 

Friday 7 Dec at 6.50 pm

Going Up the Stairs: Portrait of an Unlikely Iranian Artist (Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami / Iran/ 51 min)

When Akram, an illiterate 50-year-old Iranian woman, became a painter unexpectedly, she hid her work from possibly disapproving eyes. Now her children have arranged an exhibition in Paris, but she must obtain permission from her husband in order to attend.

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 4.10 pm

God Sleeps in Rwanda (Kimberlee Acquaro, Stacy Sherman/ Rwanda-USA/ 29 min) ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION

Heart-wrenching and inspiring, this powerful film is a reminder of the brutal consequences of the Rwandan genocide, and a tribute to the strength and spirit of the women who are moving forth.

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 8 pm

Scarlet Road (Catherine Scott/ Australia/ 70 min)

Sex worker Rachel Wotton specializes in a long overlooked clientele – people with disabilities. Working in New South Wales, where prostitution is legal, her philosophy is that human touch and sexual intimacy can be the most therapeutic aspects to our existence. She fights both for the rights of sex workers and for access to sexual expression for the disabled through sex work, bringing together these two marginalized groups.

 

Sunday 9 Dec at 6 pm

Orchids: My Intersex Adventure (Phoebe Hart/ Australia/ 57 min)

Phoebe Hart knew she was different growing up – but she didn’t know why. This award-winning documentary traces Phoebe’s voyage of self-discovery as an intersex person, as she embarks on a road trip with her sister to meet other intersex people and hear their stories.

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICS FROM SOUTH ASIA

 

Friday 7 Dec at 8.05 pm

The Sari Soldiers (Julie Bridgham/ USA-Nepal/ 92 min)

An extraordinary story of six women’s courageous efforts to shape Nepal’s future in the midst of an escalating civil war against Maoist insurgents, and the King’s crackdown on civil liberties.

 

Sunday 9 Dec at 11.50 am

How Green Was Our Valley (Fereshteh Joghataei/ Iran/ 32 min)

A dam has been built and the water is rising. 63 villages will be flooded and the residents must be uprooted. People wait for a miracle at a holy shrine.

 

 

 

Sunday 9 Dec at 2.15 pm

Something Like a War (Deepa Dhanraj/ India/ 52 min)

This celebrated documentary traces the history of the family planning program and exposes the cynicism, corruption and brutality which characterizes its implementation.

 

 

from SPECIAL FOCUS ON WOMEN & PUBLIC SPACES

 

Friday 7 Dec at 4.30 pm

My Letter to Pippa (Bingöl Elmas/ Turkey-France/ 60 min)In 2008, Pippa Bacca embarked on a hitch-hiking expedition

from Rome to the Middle East to promote world peace. She disappeared outside Istanbul. Her raped body was

later recovered. In this road documentary, Kurdish director Bingöl Elmas undertakes to continue the journey.

 

INDIA PREMIERES AT THIS FESTIVAL, ALSO SHOWING IN MUMBAI

 

Gulabi Gang (Nishtha Jain/ India- Norway- Denmark/ 107 min) (India premiere was at the Delhi edition of this festival on 25 Nov; screened in Mumbai at the launch on Wednesday 28 Nov)

In Bundelkhand, the pink sari-clad women of Gulabi Gang travel long distances by tractor and train to wrest justice for women and Dalits, undeterred by sneering policemen and condescending bureaucrats. They encounter resistance everywhere, as whole villages connive in protecting the perpetrators of violence.

 

Sunday 9 Dec at 3.10 pm

Can We See the Baby Bump Please? (Surabhi Sharma/ India/ 49 min) (India premiere was at the Delhi edition of this festival on 23 Nov)

The global reach of medical tourism and commercial surrogacy has spawned a range of clinics and practices across big cities and small towns in India. The film meets with surrogates, doctors, law firms,agents, and families in an attempt to understand the context of surrogacy in India.

 

INDIA PREMIERE IN MUMBAI

 

Sunday 9 Dec at 7.45 pm

FACING MIRRORS (Negar Azarbayjani/ Iran/ 102 min) CLOSING FILM

With her husband in prison, Rana drives a taxi to support herself and her young son. During a journey                            to drop Adineh far outside Tehran, Rana makes a discovery that horrifies her. A story of prejudice, friendship                             and redemption.

 

OTHER MUMBAI PREMIERES

 

Friday 7 Dec at 11.15 am

A Day in the Life of Rahela (Dil Afruz Zeerak/ Afghanistan/ 27 min)

PART OF AN AFGHAN PACKAGE AT OUR LIVES…TO LIVE

13-year-old Rahela lives on one of the steep hillsides in Kabul. Every day she hauls up canisters of water from the plains to help support her family and pay for her schooling.

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 11.15 am

Fragments of a Past (Uma Chakravarti/ India/ 54 min) ACADEMIC-TURNED FILMMAKER WITH A MEMORABLE FILM

The ephemeral nature of memory and the importance of keeping alive our histories are both underlined in this film essay as it retraces the political journey of activist and writer Mythili Sivaraman.

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 12.45 pm

Conversations For The Dark Side Of The Moon: Two Sisters & Shilpi (Putul Mahmood/ India/ 20 min)

INTERVIEWS THAT QUESTION OUR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS

A dialogue with two sisters who are inmates of the Lumbini Park Mental Hospital in Kolkata; a conversation with Shilpi about her unnerving experiences with psychiatrists.

 

 

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 3.35 pm

Kusum (Shumona Banerjee/ India/ 11 min)

SHORT FICTION BY AN SRFTI STUDENT THAT IS ALREADY A RUNAWAY SUCCESS

Transvestite sex worker Kusum gears up for a regular night. Enter Purab, a troubled English literature teacher who speaks no Bengali. All hell breaks loose as the two struggle to negotiate the night in each other’s presence.

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 5.55 pm

Invoking Justice (Deepa Dhanraj/ India/ 86 min)

ACCOMPLISHED FILMMAKER’S RECENT FILM, MUCH-AWAITED IN MUMBAI

In Tamil Nadu, family disputes are settled by all-male Jamaats which function without allowing women to be present. A group of women have established a women’s Jamaat, which works to reform a system that allows men to take refuge in the most extreme interpretations of the Qur’an to justify violence towards women.

MORE FILMS BY WELL-KNOWN FILMMAKERS FROM INDIA

 

Friday 7 Dec at 2.35 pm

The Ghetto Girl (Ambarien Alqadar/ 37 min)

In what is also known as India’s “Little Pakistan” in New Delhi, a girl searches for a lost home movie. The search takes her into the mapless lanes of the place she calls home.

 

Friday 7 Dec at 5.50 pm

Beyond the Wheel (Rajula Shah/ 59 min)

The film takes a look at three women in Indian pottery, across rural-urban and modern-traditional divides, with reference to the taboo of the wheel.

 

Saturday 8 Dec at 2.30 pm

Shit (Amudhan RP/ 25 min)

A street in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. A woman who sweeps up all the shit. Her name is Mariammal and she does this every day of her life. The film raises critical questions about caste, working conditions, the indifference of the Municipal Corporation, and people’s lack of civic sense.

 

Sunday 9 Dec at 11.00 am

Goddesses (Leena Manimekalai/ 43 min)

Three ordinary women who live extraordinary lives, surviving the darkest of times by going against society’s norms to live and work according to the rules they have set for themselves.

 

 

…MANY MORE FILMS AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING PANELS AND DISCUSSIONS ON THE MULTIPLE SITES AND FORMS OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE 

 

UN wants prostitution decriminalized to help curb spread of HIV #sexwork


October 23rd, 2012 | News | 


By Gian C. Geronimo/GMANEWS - If the United Nations will have its way, soliciting sex or paying for it in the Asia and the Pacific region will no longer risk imprisonment.

In a recent report, the UN recommended the decriminalization of the world’s oldest profession to help curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.

“Removing legal penalties for sex work assists HIV prevention and treatment programmes to reach sex workers and their clients,” the UN said in its report titled “Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, known to condemn prostitution, cannot be reached for comment on the subject, as the organization’s secretariat said the bishops authorized to talk about the issue are out of town on official business. But at least one bishop has blamed prostitution for the spread of HIV and has urged a crackdown on the illicit livelihood.

The UN report makes the opposite argument. By legalizing prostitution, the government can make sex work safer, extend health services to sex workers and thus slow the spread of the virus.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said in a briefing Friday that it will leave the issue of legalization of sex work to the country’s legislators.

“We have no comment. We would rather leave it to our legislators,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte at a press briefing.

But Valte stressed that Philippine laws make prostitution in any form illegal. “Primarily, that’s illegal. Under our present laws that’s illegal which is why the LGUs are also in charge of cracking down and making sure that hindi lang doon sa establishments but rather people who traffic [are also apprehended].”

Susceptibility to HIV

The UN said the criminalization of sex-related jobs increases workers’ susceptibility to HIV by “fuelling stigma and discrimination, limiting access to sexual health services, condoms and harm reduction services; and adversely affecting the self esteem of sex workers and their ability to make informed choices about their health.”

The recommendation is also a move to stop the exploitation of sex workers and to give them basic rights by suggesting that their jobs, too, should have typical workplace standards in line with the law and government.

Decriminalization enables sex workers to organize within their communities and register their organizations, obtain identification documents so that they can fully access services and entitlements, engage in advocacy and respond to the health and safety needs of their peers,” the UN said.

The UN noted that, with the exception of New Zealand and the state of New South Wales in Australia, all countries in Asia and the Pacific criminalize sex work or associated activities.

In the Philippines, for one, sex work and soliciting sex work are illegal, as well as the establishment of brothels.

According to the Revised Penal Code, vagrancy is an offense, with the code defining prostitutes as vagrants. Sex workers caught may be fined up to six months in prison under the code’s vagrancy provision.

Valte said the government is continuously fighting prostitution and trafficking in the Philippines. “It is a point of concern which is why the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) continues to work on improving ‘yung mga conviction when it comes to trafficking in persons. We continue to work with—or the member-agencies in ensuring na nababawasan at mawawala po ‘yung mga ganitong kaso.”

Condoms

The UN study said in the Philippines, despite the government’s support for efforts to promote condom use among sex workers, many people in the sex industry still steer clear of condoms for fear that it may be used by the police as evidence against them once they are arrested.

The UN report referenced a 2003 study that found that many street-based sex workers refused free condoms offered by outreach workers because of the police issue.

“Police impeded their access to HIV prevention services by confiscating condoms, using possession of condoms as evidence of sex work, or arresting them for vagrancy,” the UN report said.

Ways to decriminalize sex work

The UN listed ways to decriminalize sex work.

“To enable the sex industry to be regulated as a legitimate form of work requires removal of the range of laws that criminalize activities associated with sex work, including removal of offences relating to soliciting, living on the earnings of sex work, procuring, pimping, the management and operation of brothels, and advertising,” it said.

Its report also debunked claims that countries in Asia and the Pacific where sex work is illegal have low HIV rates and prevented the epidemic to spread among sex workers and their clients.

In fact, the study said evidence suggests areas that decriminalized sex work have “very high” condom use rates and increased access to sexual health services. —

with Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK/RSJ/HS, GMA News

HIV and the Law-Risks, Rights & Health


Thursday, 25 October 2012, IFHHRO

Earlier this year, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law published a report presenting the available evidence on human rights and legal issues relating to HIV: HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights & Health.

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law consisted of fourteen individuals who advocate on issues of HIV, public health, law and development. Some of the Commission’s findings include:

  • 123 countries have legislation to outlaw discrimination based on HIV, and 112 legally protect at least some populations based on their vulnerability to HIV. However, these laws are often ignored or badly enforced.
  • In over 60 countries it is a crime to expose another person to HIV or to transmit it, especially through sex. At least 600 individuals living with HIV in 24 countries have been convicted under HIV-specific or general criminal laws.
  • In many countries, the law dehumanises many of those at highest risk for HIV: sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), people who use drugs, prisoners and migrants. Rather than providing protection, the law renders these “key populations” all the more vulnerable to HIV. The criminalisation of sex work, drug use and harm reduction measures create climates in which civilian and police violence is rife and legal redress for victims impossible.
  • 78 countries make same-sex activity a criminal offence, with penalties ranging from whipping to execution.
  • A growing body of international trade law and the over-reach of intellectual property (IP) protections are impeding the production and distribution of low-cost generic drugs. IP protection is supposed to provide an incentive for innovation but experience has shown that the current laws are failing to promote innovation that serves the medical needs of the poor. The fallout from these regulations—in particular the TRIPS framework—has exposed the central role of excessive IP protections in exacerbating the lack of access to HIV treatment and other essential medicines.

Reason for hope

Notwithstanding these problems, the Commission has found reason for hope: “There are instances where legal and justice systems have played constructive roles in responding to HIV, by respecting, protecting and fulfi lling human rights. To some such an approach may seem a paradox—the AIDS paradox. But compelling evidence shows that it is the way to reduce the toll of HIV.” Examples given are police cooperation with community workers who assist sex workers; the promotion of harm reduction programmes for injecting drug users; effective legal aid for people living with HIV; and court actions and legislative initiatives promoting the rights of sexual minorities, women and young people. Despite international pressures to prioritise trade over public health, some governments
and civil society groups are using the law to ensure access to affordable medicines, while exploring new incentives for medical research and development.

The report is available in English, Spanish,French and Russian.

Download HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights & Health