Sex workers allege police harassment; call for sensitivity training to personnel

Many of them said they were being harassed by male officers

Published - February 10, 2021 12:52 am IST - Bengaluru

Sex workers in the city, whose plight was largely ignored during the COVID-19 pandemic, are now alleging increased police violence, particularly in and around Majestic area.

Some of the women The Hindu spoke to said they have been subjected to verbal abuse and even been publicly humiliated. Many also said they were being harassed by male officers even though it is mandated that only a female police officer can question, arrest or detain them. “When we approach the police with our grievances, we are asked to provide CCTV camera footage to corroborate our allegations,” they said.

Shobha (name changed), who took up the profession 10 years ago after her husband passed away, said police brutality makes it difficult for them to meet their livelihood. “Police personnel verbally abuse us and take away our belongings so that we are forced to go to the station. Later, they ask us to cough up a fine of ₹250 or ₹500 without giving us a receipt,” she said.

According to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, sex work itself is not an offence, but soliciting customers or maintenance of brothels is considered a crime.

Another 38-year-old sex worker who has been in the profession for the past 15 years said they were badly affected by the pandemic. “During the lockdown, apart from some help from our union, we were left to fend for ourselves,” he said.

Geetha M., secretary, Sadhana Mahila Sangha, said there was a need for better sensitivity among police personnel at the lower ranks to ensure that sex workers are not subjected to any form of harassment from them.

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