Bengal sex workers’ group supports legalisation

‘People should acknowledge sex work as a woman’s labour right’

Published - November 10, 2014 08:04 am IST - KOLKATA

The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a collective of about 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal, has come out in support of chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW) Lalitha Kumaramangalam’s proposal to legalise sex work.

Ms. Kumaramanagalam had given an assurance to place a proposal on the legalisation of sex work before a Supreme Court-constituted panel on Saturday.

In the absence of regulation, she said sex workers were forced to serve clients in unhygienic and unhealthy conditions and without condoms, which led to the spread of HIV and STD.

“For instance in Sonagachi (a red-light area) in Kolkata, which is the best organised cooperative of sex workers, there is no security for children. Clients are reluctant to use condoms and become carriers of disease. All this can be changed, if we regulate the profession,” Ms. Kumaramangalam had said earlier.

The DMSC said that it “whole-heartedly supports Ms. Kumarmangalam’s proposal and implementation through development of an appropriate labour legislation.” The DMSC has also been fighting for the decriminalisation of clients and repeal of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.

“The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act directly or indirectly criminalises sex work. People talk about women empowerment, however they do not acknowledge sex work as a woman’s labour right. Sex work is identified as unorganised labour by the New Trade Union Initiative (an apolitical trade union committee found in 2002).

If the profession is legalised, it will entitle women to enjoy labour-related benefits, like minimum wage, compensation, etc,” DMSC founder Smarajit Jana told The Hindu .

Sex work would allow sex workers and their families to lead a life of dignity, the DMSC said in its statement.

“Decriminalisation of sex work will distinguish between sex work and trafficking. It would protect sex workers from getting exploited and physically abused by the police, goons and their supporters,” the DMSC stated.

The DMSC urged the NCW to consult sex workers in forming the framework of labour legislation in sex work, keeping in mind the existing labour laws for the unorganised labour sector.

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