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Sex workers facing huge challenge in getting identity proof to avail social entitlements

A note on the National Consultation around the historic Supreme Court ruling of 19 May 2022 by All-India Network of Sex Workers

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Over 50 participants including 30 sex workers representing various community-based organizations across 11 states including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh who are associated with the All-India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) gathered at Vishwa Yuvak Kendra here today to discuss around the ‘historic Supreme Court Ruling of 19 May, 2022.’ Speaking about the Supreme Court Ruling, Ms. Putul Singh, President, AINSW, stated that it “affirmed that sex workers should be treated with decency and dignity, and the police should not interfere or take any criminal action when an adult engages in consensual sex work.”
Dr Shobini Rajan, Deputy Director General, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) said “We have always put the community at the centre when it comes to making decisions related to them. During COVID-19, we worked with the agencies responsible for implementing the Supreme Court Ruling on the ground we also developed a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure distribution of ration for sex workers who were associated with the Targeted Intervention programme across India. The sex workers have demonstrated the community-led HIV prevention programme and facilitated the reduction of HIV transmission. We will continue to engage with them to improve their quality of life”.

This consultation was organized to discuss the concrete efforts to be taken forward with the support of other partners. Representatives from the National AIDS Control Organisation, Delhi Legal Services Authority, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), International Labour Organisation (ILO), Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) South India AIDS Action Programme (SIAAP), India HIV/AIDS Alliance and many other organizations participated in this event.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. David Bridger, Country Director, UNAIDS said “Inequalities are still driving the HIV epidemic globally and here in India. The Supreme Court Judgment and directions in India around sex work is a crucial step in the right direction that would contribute to the reduction of inequality and affirms sex workers their right to a safer and a healthier life. Sex work is a human right”.
Dr. Chiranjeev Bhattacharya representing UNDP, India said, “We had closely worked with transgender community that led to development of a framework for the transgender community. This was implemented on the ground through the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. In the light of the Supreme Court Judgment, we can develop a similar framework for the sex workers community."
David Bridger, Anand Grover
“Sex workers community have rightly understood the Supreme Court Judgment on sex workers and the issue which is the need of the hour to implement it. While it is not just availability and accessibility of food for sex workers but also access to other social entitlements and citizenship rights including voter identity card, ration card etc. In addition to these, the issue of detention where adults being held without their consent is contradictory to the law also needs to be taken forward by the community” said Senior Advocate, Mr. Anand Grover.
Assuring the support from the system in upholding the rights of sex workers, Mr. Gupta, Delhi Legal Services Authority “Every individual needs to be treated with dignity irrespective of their gender, profession and so on. Sex workers are facing a huge challenge in getting their identity proof which in turn is preventing them from availing basic social entitlements and benefits. We continue to provide legal aid and support for those who are not able to provide proof of identity. We do understand that many sex workers have undergone a lot of violence from different sections including those in charge of law enforcement. There is a need to sensitize both representatives of system and society to stop criminalization of sex work. There is a need to strengthen access to justice” he added.

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