Sex workers demand dignity, access to other jobs | Bengaluru News

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BENGALURU: Shobha, in her early 40s, switched her job to that of a field officer with a women’s rights group about 20 years ago, but is still identified as a sex worker and jeered at on the roads. As a rights worker, she has tens of stories of other women like her to narrate. She’s helping all of them fight and survive.
The recent Supreme Court order has opened up doors that can provide much-needed relief to the likes of Shobha. The court’s acknowledgement of their profession and its directions to statutory authorities to uphold their constitutional rights are welcome steps. That said, the story does not end here. In the sex workers’ experience, the shelf life of such reformational directions or policies has always been short.
So, what do they expect? They expect what they’ve always wanted: Dignity in society. According to Shobha, the reason society still remembers her as a sex worker is “police”. She says police let everyone know, chase sex workers every night, train their guns on them and assault them with canes. “They even gossip about us and our bodies and never let our past go,” she alleged.


Given the ingrained prejudice and stigma towards sex workers in our society, the Supreme Court’s recent verdict might not change the ground reality overnight. The order, affirming their right to dignity, will however help them fight for legal protection and safety. Tackling the larger issue of stigmatisation, which often results i

Millennia after the profession came into existence, sex workers have understood that their only chance at dignity in Indian society is total anonymity.
“Decriminalise sex work, but do not licence it. We’re not progressive enough to know how to function when a person who is also a sex worker exists in society as a casual, natural part of it. Apart from humiliation, they are under the threat of being poached by traffickers, violated, and denied essential commodities,” Geetha M, secretary, Sadhana Mahila Sangha, which works with sex workers, told TOI.
Having understood their current pr ofession can only support them for a few years, they say primary among their demands is access to other jobs. They want radical policies allowing them to access daycare facilities, housing, education, and healthcare without their professional identities being revealed and without castigation. Guna, a sex worker, wants to work for the government, use her experience to help them nab traffickers or bust sex rings. “If the state really cares about our welfare, it should create safe spaces for us to retire when we can no longer do sex work. We can be offered government jobs or a policy that will place us in well-paying occupations,” she said.
To ensure their peaceful coexistence, they are firm on wanting government help in maintaining anonymity. “The benefits of the state government’s Chetana scheme have not reached me or any of my colleagues. Also, we do not want policies that are exclusively for sex workers. We want anonymity. We want to disappear in the crowd and not stand out. Help us do that,” said Guna. ( Names of sex workers changed to protect their identities)

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