Sex workers’ body to set up RTI centres in four metros

aaThe All India Network of Sex Workers will set up RTI centres in the four metros – Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai – to enable community members get information from government officers in their fight to get their rightful place in society.

“The AINSW will have one RTI centre each in four metropolises – Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. It will use RTI as a tool to get information from all government officers across the states,” the organisation’s principal advisor Smarajit Jana said addressing a session at the Sex Workers’ Festival here.

The pilot project will start functioning in Kolkata from March 3, the eve of International Sex Workers Day, and those at Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai will follow, said Jana.

Right to Information activist Venkatesh Nayak said enhancing skills for using RTI should be an integral component of efforts to make marginal and vulnerable communities like sex workers, gays and transgenders seek their proper position in society.

“Marginalised groups like sex workers, MSMs (men who have sex with men) and transgenders are often at the receiving end of the law, primarily because they are information poor.

“Lack of awareness about their rights and the government’s apathy prevent them from actively participating in the democratic process,” said Nyak, who is associated with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives and the co-convener of National Campaign for People’s Right to Information.

“Enhancing skills for using RTI should be an integral component of the efforts to make them seek rightful place in society and equal share in the process of decision-making with regards to social and economic development,” he said.

Over 200 women leaders representing sex workers’ groups from 16 states of the country participated in the session.

AINSW president Bharati Dey said during raids, police arbitrarily take away girls and refuse to share necessary information about those they book under various sections.

“This is against the law. Sex workers, just like any other Indian citizen, have all the right to question the government because we chose them and they are answerable to us too.”

(Source: IANS)

Conference on freedom of sex workers

On Saturday Kolkata will host a conference on freedom of sex workers. 550 sex workers representatives from about 44 countries will participate in the event. The two-day event, to be held on July 21 and 22, will run parallel to the XIX International AIDS Conference being organized in Washington DC from Sunday. The sex workers cannot be at Washington DC due to restriction on movement of the community by the US government.

 “We have been working in the field of HIV/AIDS for the past 20 years. It is unfortunate that the community that is most vulnerable to infection has not been included to as a part of the conference, Therefore, we had to take up this parallel conference,” said Bharati Dey, secretary, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC).

 The first-ever Global Hub of the International AIDS Conference is being hosted and co-hosted by DMSC, Global Network of Sex Workers (NWSP) and All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) respectively. The meet in Kolkata will have direct communication through satellite link with the Washington DC conference. Adding glamour to the meet will be the likes of Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a well known activist who will host the conference.

 “This conference has been held for over a decade25 years. But people living with HIV and the most at-risk communities have been prohibited for the first time by the US government, due to their ignorant policy,” said Dr Samrajit Jana, DMSC chief advisor.

Apex court appoints panel for sex workers

The Supreme Court on Tuesday set up a panel to conduct a survey of sex workers and rehabilitate them.

A bench comprising of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra said the panel will be headed by senior counsel Pradeep Ghosh and Jayant Bhushan. It will also include three NGOs engaged in helping sex workers.

The court directed the central and the state governments as well as the union territories’ administrations to carry out a survey of sex workers in their jurisdiction and submit that report to the panel.

The court asked the governments to extend full cooperation and assistance to the panel.

The panel would make suggestions for prevention of human trafficking, for rehabilitation of sex workers who want to leave their trade, and for improving the conditions of those who want to continue with it.

The panel’s appointment came in the wake of the court taking a suo moto notice of the these workers’ rehabilitation problems. The issue cropped up from the case of a man who was convicted of killing a sex worker in West Bengal.

Rehabilitate sex workers, Supreme Court tells states

The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the states to comply with its earlier order on rehabilitating sex workers, failing which it will summon the chief secretaries of the errant states and seek an explanation.

The apex court by its February 14 directions had asked the central and state governments to prepare schemes for giving technical and vocational training to sex workers and sexually abused women to make them financially independent.

An apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra said: ‘We will issue notice to the chief secretaries and home secretaries of non-compliant states as to why contempt notice should not be issued to them.’

‘If you don’t comply, we will have the chief secretaries (of non-complying states) present in the court. We will catch hold of them by their necks,’ Justice Katju said.

The court was told that only West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh had filed affidavits listing the steps they has initiated for the rehabilitation of the sex workers and sexually abused women.

Haryana, Assam, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Manipur, Delhi, Chandigarh and Andhra Pradesh have sought additional time to file their affidavits.

The court granted them four weeks time.

The bench took serious view of the states that had neither responded nor made their counsels appear before it. The court was also not satisfied with the central government’s affidavit, and directed it to file a fresh one in four weeks.

The court said that it was unfortunate that women were forced to work as prostitutes.

‘Sex workers are also human beings. They become sex workers not out enjoyment but out of (needs of the) stomach.

‘No one sells their body for pleasure. It is out of poverty,’ Justice Katju said.

He also advised the counsels present in court to read stories by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay on the subject.

He said that Chattopadhyay’s stories portray some sex workers as people of very high character who sacrificed everything for others.

The court also appointed senior counsels Jayant Bhushan and Pradeep Ghosh as amicus curiae (friend of the court). Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium is already assisting the court as amicus curiae.

The matter will come up for hearing July 19, 2011.