Don’t criminalise our clients, say sex workers

February 12th, 2009 - 6:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) A grouping of sex workers said Thursday that proposed changes in law that will treat clients as criminals will hit hard their earnings.
A spokesperson for Ashodaya, which groups sex workers and transgenders, criticised the ministry of women and child development for suggesting amendments in the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act (ITPA).

“The ministry has been campaigning to criminalise clients of sex workers … without listening to the voices of those who will be affected by it,” spokesperson Bhagyalakshmi told reporters here.

Giving details about a two-day meeting on sexuality, she said the proposed changes in law would only push the sex trade underground and increase the vulnerability of sex workers.

Akram Pasha, a male sex worker, added: “Trafficking and sex trade are often confused to be the same thing. Sex workers like us are now trying to ensure that minors do not enter the profession. It’s a method of self regulation.”‘

“Bhagyalakshmi and we counsel girls below the age of 18 who come to us and try and send them back home. If they don’t or can’t go home, then we put them in a shelter where they are taught self reliance activities like stiching,” added Pasha, who has been HIV positive for the last six years.

According to Bhagyalakshmi, they sent back 38 such girls and gave vocational training to 15 others in the last few months itself in Mysore, where Ashodaya is based.

“We have been doing this with the help of the police commissioner. One has to understand that banning something is not a solution to any problem.”

Anjali Goppalan of the Naz Foundation, an NGO working on HIV/AIDS, said: “The government also has to understand that reaching out to the vulnerable section is not possible without their members’ help.

“Whether it’s distribution of condoms or awareness of HIV, such organisations play a major role in doing actual good ground work, which we outsiders don’t have access to. Therefore it’s pertinent to listen to their voices.”

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