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AIDS Community














Consolidated Reply

Registration for Sex Workers, f
rom Chandigarh

Compiled by
E. Mohamed Rafique

Bonani Dhar

Resource Persons; research
provided by
Seema Kochhar


Sarika Dhawan
, Research Associate


June 2006

Original Query:
Avnish Jolly, Chandigarh

Posted: 26 May 2006

Jammu and Kashmir (J & K
) is the only state in the country where sex work is legal. According to
the Public Prostitutes Registration Rules, 1921, a sex worker can carry on her trade legally if she
registers herself with the District Magistrate. She has to fill in a simple applica
tion form, file it in
person and pay Rs 5 as fee. Though, the State tries its sex offenders under the Prevention of
Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA) and the sections of its own Ranbir Penal Code, the rules of 1921
have not been repealed. The rules are still
published in J & K Laws, the State's statute book. Law
Minister Muzzaffer Hussain Beigh, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister of J & K, admitted the
rules were still in force and could be invoked. ''Yes, the rules are in the book and are as such
Beigh said. He, however, said the Government would repeal them in the next Assembly
session. ''It is a different matter that no woman would register now under the rules, but the rules
will have to go.''

Sanctioned by the Darbar of the then Maharja Hari S
ingh vide Chief Minister letter No. 17197,
dated February 12, 1921, these rules were first published in Government Gazette of the same
year. The rules define a public prostitute as ''a woman who earns her livelihood by offering her
person to lewdness for h
ire.'' The rules also allow for the role of a brothel keeper and defines him
or her as ''the occupier of any house, room, tent, boat, or place resorted to by person of both
sexes for the purpose of committing sexual immorality.'' However, the brothel keepe
r has to
ensure that he does not keep the sex workers who are not registered with the Government.

The Kashmir Bar Association in a PIL on the sex abuse scandal has sought the repeal of the
rules. As I am quite unaware of the effect of repealing of these

rules on the HIV infection among
sex workers, I would like to know from members the following:

1) What benefits do these rules bestow on sex workers and what are the ill effects if they are

2) If these rules are beneficial what case could sex w
orkers make so that they are not repealed?

Looking forwards to learn from the Community's collective wisdom.

Responses were received, with thanks, from:


H. K. Gardin

Tata Steel, Jamshedpur


B. K. Sh
, Gwalior Children

s Hospital Charity, UK


Tripti Tandon
, Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, New Delhi


Avnish Jolly, Chandigarh

Response 1
Response 2

Response 3

Response 5

Response 6

Response 7


G. Karunanid
, Tamil Nadu Network of PLHIV, Madurai


Digambar Narzary
, N

oundation, Assam


Kaveesher Krishnan,
Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection of
India (SAATHII),

Response 1
Response 2


Nitin Jugran Bahuguna

ance Journalist,



Scherry Siganporia
GZT (German Technical Cooperation),
New Delhi


oln Choudh

Achuta Menon Center for Health Sciences Studies, Sree
Chitra Ti
runal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology,



Ajay Singh
, JP Associates (P) Limited,

New Delhi


Amitrajit Saha,
Durbar Mahila Samanway
a Committee (DMSC),
Response 1

Response 2

Response 3

Response 4

Response 5


Shalini Khare



Suneel Qamra
Regional Medical Research Centre for Tribals,



Prabhjot Sodhi
UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program,
New Delhi



K. Bartaria, Goodrich Management Consultants, Indore (
Response 1

Response 2

Response 3


Bhaskar Mittra

Sir Dorabji Tata Trust



Ravishwar Sinha
, New Delhi


Archana R. Singh

Department of Mass Communication, Punjab University,


Amrita Nandy Joshi
, Oxford University, UK


M. S. R. Murthy
, Departments of Population Studies and Social Work, Sri
Venkateswara University, Tirupati


V. Rukmini Rao, Gramya Resource Center for Women, Secunderabad
Response 1

Response 2


Dheeraj Kattula

Department of Psychiatry, Christian Medical College,


Shalina Mehta,

Department of Anthropology, Punjab University,


Joe Thomas


Indrani Sinha
, Sanlaap,



Debasish Chowdhury, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC),

Response 1

Response 2


Theophilus Gokah
, Cardiff University, UK


Amrik Singh Kapoor
, New Delhi


Nabeel M. K.

Centre for Tele

Medical Inform
atics, Academy of
Medical Sciences, Kerala


Aditi Tandon
, The Tribune, Chandigarh


Manojit Biswas
, CHARCA, Kanpur


V. Chaturvedi
, Development
Consultants, Hyd


Yogananda Shastry Chaturvedi
, Center for Women

Child Development,

Academy of Rural Development, Hyderabad


Afroja Parvin
, Nari Unnayan Shakti (Women's Power for Develo

Summary of Responses

Using the query on registration of sex workers in Jammu and Kashmir as an opportunity,
members discussed the benefits and drawbacks of providing legal recognition to sex workers as a
way of providing them a type
of security and health safety net. Members also shared their
experiences dealing with different methods for addressing the needs of sex workers.

Members questioned the impact
due to
amendments recently introduced in Parliament to
Immoral Traffic Prev
ention Act, 1956 (ITPA). They flagged issues, which they felt would do more
harm than good. The p
roposal would remove Section 8
that allows the police to book a sex
worker on charges of seducing or soliciting customers in public places

as well as
ion 2

to the removal of a sex worker from any place. The controversial change to the Act
is the proposed insertion of

new Section 5C


would punish any person found or visiting a
brothel for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The respond
ents critically analyzed the

emphasized by organizations over the

amendments to the ITPA. A Kolkata
based sex workers collective called the
Durbar Mahila
Samanvay Committee (DMSC)
, the National Network of Sex Wor
kers (NNSW) and the Lawyers’
Collective in New Delhi are a few of the groups protesting the changes. They are worried the
changes will adversely affect the health
, safety, trafficking rates and

shelter options, a
s well as

the financial and social security
of sex workers. Members highlighted the case of
an anti
trafficking organization

working in
Andhra Pradesh
, which has successfully used the existing
ITPA to lodge cases against traffickers and reduce the incidence of
trafficking in their area. They
felt that including the collective voice of sex workers is important when making any sort of policy

Members shared several situations which demonstrate how changes to the Act could have
unintended, harmful or inef
fectual results. For example, in Rajasthan there is an on
going project
where the sex workers are demanding condom use by customers. Members opined that adding
an amendment like Section 5C could

indirectly and

severely reduce the sex workers ability to
and condom use. Another experience mentioned is the recent situation in Maharashtra where
the State outlawed bar dancers. The goal of th

law was

the morality of men and
youth visiting the bars.

, it was unsuccessful and repealed. Membe
rs pointed out
instead of legislation
against sex workers
there is a need to address
specific vulnerabilities.

the Banchada tribe
in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and the

devdasis system

in Karnataka

ighted the fact that the G
overnments of the respective states have attempted to
address the problem, with differing results. The Karnataka government passed an Act designed
to abolish the devdasis practice

owever, the practice remains. On the other hand,

government of MP launched the
Jabali Yojana scheme

to address sex work within the tribe.
Members pointed out the difficulty of addressing traditional forms of sex work only through
legislation, and called for the imp
lementation and enforcement of the law along with targeting
the broader socio
cultural situation. Jabali Yojana is an example of this type of approach;
however, the problem still exists fifteen years after the project was launched, demonstrating the
need f
or effective implementation.

Arguing in favor of institutionalizing sex work as a trade, members appreciated alternative
mechanisms to changing the ITPA. Respondents noted the innovative introduction of ‘Smart
Cards’. This project is more than just an ATM

card, because it serves as a tool to empower sex
workers by giving them de facto recognition through government programs. Members pointed
out that the biometric authentication element of the card allows for accurate identification and a
systematic method
of tracking sex workers across the country, in case of migration, which will
also help in controlling the spread of HIV. Members contend that it is the responsibility of the
community at large to ensure the health and confidence of sex workers and smart ca
rd is a new
move for achieving this. Another possible way to ensure social security members suggested was
the provision of health insurance scheme for rural populations with contributions of Rupees Eight
Hundred from Government of India. The

project in West Bengal is a third example
mentioned by members, which is successfully working with sex workers to improve their health

In addition to discussing the ITPA and the various issues related to it, members also

their concerns regarding cross
border trafficking. More than five million women and young girls
from Nepal and Bangladesh are being trafficked with India and Pakistan emerging as major
transit points on the way to other countries. The members se
nsed it was necessary to create

enabling environment

component in sex worker interventions

the achievements
of DMSC that facilitat

formation of sex workers organizations to take control of their lives,
provide ac
cess to resources
. Thi
s unionization gave the sex workers

a collective voice and
that improve


access to entitlement

as citizens like ration card or school

Some m


agreed that any measure that recognizes the
civil liberties

of sex worke
to engage in their profession will reduce their vulnerability to illegal assaults and denial of rights.

felt that any form of r
egistration will be in the interests of s
ex workers
consequently of HIV prevention

Comparative Experie

Andhra Pradesh

Targeting Traffickers through law
Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh)

In Anathpur, an anti
trafficking organization lodged fifty
four Prevention of Immoral Trafficking


Information Reports over a five
year period; resulting in the arrest of fifty
traffickers. Since the NGO began its work, trafficking is declining in the area. The NGO brings
girls rescued from traffickers to shelter homes and provides them educationa
l and skill
opportunities. Through government schemes and market linkages, the girls are empowered to
earn a regular income.


The Smart Card Project
Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chan
Lincoln Choudhary
; Achuta Menon
for Health Science Studies; and Sree Chitra

Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and

A pilot initiative by the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), Ashodya Mahila Samawa
(AMSS), and Pennat Consulting (a service provider), The Smart Card Project, provides sex
workers an electronic “smart card.” The card carries information about the person, including age,
sex, address and occupation. It gives sex workers access to healt
hcare services across the state.
This project, along with providing needed services, has improved the self
esteem of the sex
workers using it.

The Karnataka Devdasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act
Dr. Avnish Jolly
digarh and
Bhaskar Mittra

Sir Dorabji Tata Trust


Dedication of a woman as devdasis is a criminal offence; it was outlawed in 1982 through The
Karnataka Devdasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act. The practice of de
dicating women as
‘devdasis’ to deities, idols, objects of worship, temples and/or other religious institutions still
exists in certain parts of Karnataka.

West Bengal

Health Promotion Project

Debasish Chowdh
, DMSC, Kolkata;
, Department of Anthropology, Punjab University, Chandigarh;

Kaveesher Krishnan
SAATHII: Solidarity and Action Against the HIV



India, Hyderabad
; and
Dr. Amitrajit
, DMSC, Kolkata)

The Sonagachi Project is a collaboration between government, non
government and community
based organizations in over 40 areas throughout the state. It addresses a community of ar
60,000 male, female, and transgender sex workers based in brothels, streets, and hotels. The
project is a multifaceted community effort designed to empower sex workers by providing
knowledge and tools to enable them to improve their health status.

Madhya Pradesh

Jabila Yojna
B. K. Bartaria
, Goodrich Management Consultants, Indore)

In 1992, the State launched a scheme (“Jabila Yojna”) to try and abolish this socially sanctioned
form of prostitution.

The Banchada tr
ibe for the past 40 years has been involved with the sex
trade. If families encounter financial problems, parents can make their daughters, referred to as
‘khilwadi’ (sacrificial goat) become prostitutes. Parents force girls as young as 12 to engage in
x work. Men often celebrate the birth of the girl child for their utility as an income source.


Alternatives to Sex Work

Dr. Joe Thomas

The NGO Jwalamukhi conduc
ted classes for sex workers to develop awareness about safe sex
and HIV/AIDS. In the classes, they also discuss issues such as harassment by the police and
exploitation by middlemen. One of the program’s successes is Nalini Jameela, a sex worker who
her autobiography, learned how to make documentary films, and has attended global
conferences through the support provided for her by Jwalamukhi.

Related Resources

Recommended Documents

Sex Workers
ppose ITPA Amendment Bill
G. Karunanidhi
Tamil Nadu Network of
PLHIV, Madurai)

New India Press

New Delhi
; May 2006

equires registration, registration is free)
Read Document

Reports on the meeting

sex workers with Congress President, Sonia Gandhi and
eader, L.K. Advani to protest against the proposed amendment in ITPA bill

Prevention of Trafficking and the Care and Support of T
rafficked Person
Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh)

The Asia Foundation, Population Council

New Delhi
; February 2001




Conceptualizes links between trafficking and HIV and
assesses the policy context
underpins interventions


and support
of trafficked pers

aunched for

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh)

Deccan Herald
; May 26, 2006

http://www.deccan 4232006526.asp



, an

innovative health card for sex workers to



business transactions as well as


access to health services

From Frying Pan to Fire

Nitin Jugran Bahuguna

Freelance Journalist,
New Delhi

Nitin Jugran Bahuguna


Article d
iscusses the

various ang
les to the ITPA

Amendment Bill inclu
information on
legal aspects


views of
the sex


Taking on
Dr. Avnish Jolly



Kuldip Dhiman;
The Tribune




Tells the s
uccess story of an




women and

, assisting in
their resettlemen


HIV related issues

egistration of
orkers, NCW
ells Maharashtra
Suneel Q
Medical Research Centre for Tribals,


The Hindu

, 2003 0.htm

Article reports on the


by the

ational Commission for Women
to stop
registration of professional



Oru Lyngika

Thozhilaliyude Atmakatha

(Autobiography of a Sex Worker)


Dr. Joe




Nalini Jameela
; D.C. Books; Kottayam;


(paid publication)

Ordering information available at:

The book is the autobiography of

sex worker

from Kerala, discusses the realities of her
life and
exposes politicians and senior officials are involved in a flourishing sex racket

Dr. E.

Mohamed Rafique
, Resource Person)

By Donna M. Hughes; The Prague Post; May 20, 2004

(Size: 30.2 KB)

The Document shows that prostitution has been legalized in Australia, the Netherlands
and Germany.

Recommended Websites

The Communication I

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Ch


Debasish Chowdhury
DMSC, Kolkata)
466 .html

ontains information on

which focuses on the education
of sex

workers in
West Bengal about

HIV and related issues

Recommended Organizations

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC
Dr. Amitrajit Saha

12/5 Nilmoni Mitra Street, Kolkata

700006 West Bengal;

‘Durbar’ (Bengali for un
stoppable or indomitable) is

sex worker




trafficking o

women into sex trade

and fights for the rights of sex workers

Responses in Full

Dr. H. K. Gardin
, Tata Steel, Jamshedpur

1) What benefits do these rules bestow on sex workers and what are the
ill effects

if they are


systematic method
of registration of sex workers in a place will

provide the exact statistics of
the sex workers.

This helps in directing health care measures towards this group. Once an entry
into the sex workers community is made, other services can also be delivered by t
he service
providers. Experience shows that a balance of

based and needs
based requirements of the
sex workers community

have to be met after the usual prioritization of the resources.

However it
is usually those working for sex workers who over tim
e adapt their services. As sex work involves
continuous change over time with some leaving or

returning to their villages or homes, while new
ones enter the trade such a registration has to be sustained over time for it to be up to date.

If the rule on
Registration of sex workers is abolished than sex work will be driven underground.
This makes it very difficult for the service provider to reach the sex worker community and
provide services. For example health care services from a fixed clinic

manned by
a doctor near or
in a brothel would become

irregular visits by a health worker or peer educator. Hence all the
work done by the service provider is undone with the dispersal of the community.


If these rules are beneficial what case could sex workers
make so that they are not repealed?

Sex work being the oldest profession it

has never been abolished. Instead sex workers transform
from one type to another. The ban on dance bars and raids on them

in Mumbai saw dancers
migrate to other states or

move to


Raids on the brothel temporarily displaces them

they become

based or 'floating' sex workers. It is well known that higher the degree of
mobility the

greater the difficulty for service providers to reach the mobile community.

If abol
ishing drives sex work underground and criminalizes it, registration regulates it.
Registration by providing partial legitimization de
criminalizes sex work. The registration of sex
workers will also ensure that no minors entered the profession.

Dr. B.
K. Sharma
Gwalior Children’s Hospital Charity, UK

As you may be aware in many countries sex trade is legal and well regularized. Sex workers are
allowed to earn for their living like any other worker or employee. In some places they are
considered as any

other professional. Many
time such sex workers lead a normal family life and
earn their living by trading sex as a business.

Recognizing the system and regularizing such workers and this trade is more advantageous and
helpful for the society and commu
nity as a whole. These sex workers can live their normal life
undergoing regular heath check ups and taking all necessary precautions as required for
themselves as well for their clients. This leads to prevention of STIs and HIV among them as well
their cl
ients, if the registration rules are followed properly. The main reason for spread of HIV in
India is through sex workers and that is

because sex trade is neither legalized nor any body
bothers for their health. Sex is considered as a taboo, but every one
practices it. I believe

it is
high time

that we realize the facts and accept sex trade as one of the profession which has been
there since the beginning of time and will never go. It was recognized in J & K in 1921. The need
of the day is to regularize thi
s trade and the sex workers involved in it; arm them

with awareness
as well as the precautions and wherewithal required

to practice safe sex.

This also entails
respecting their rights to be

looked after and cared for

as human beings with a positive attitud
towards them. Then only can


be some slowing down of the spread of STI and HIV in India.

Tripti Tandon,

Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, New Delhi

New Delhi, 24 May 2006

Clearly concerned by the amendments introduced by the government
in parl
iament on 22 May 2006, the National Network of Sex Workers (
NNSW), health,

and legal
groups like the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit are opposing the proposed law as it takes away
the livelihood of sex workers and has serious repercussions on public healt

“The amendments were introduced despite our opposition and no effort has been made to
understand the public health concerns that we are raising regarding the provisions introduced in
parliament”, says Mala Singh, a sex worker and a peer educator in an

HIV/AIDS project in
Sonagachi, Kolkata, speaking at a press conference held in Delhi.

“Despite repeated assurances to the NNSW and the Lawyers Collective that they would be
consulted, the Department of Women & Child Development, Ministry of Human Resour
Development, has introduced the amendment bill to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
(ITPA) in Parliament”, said Anand Grover, Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit. “This
goes against the principles of justice as those who are most a
ffected by a proposed law

should be consulted as it directly impacts their lives”, he added.

The provision being opposed by sex workers and public health experts alike is Section 5(c), which
seeks to penalize clients.

Dr. Jana, a doctor who has worked t
o prevent HIV/AIDS among sex
workers in the last decade


clients will render interventions carried on by the
government and donor programmes to promote condom use in sex workers ineffective, as clients
wanting to avoid arrests will dri
ve sex workers into hidden, unsafe settings. The sex workers will
be isolated and will lose the power to negotiate for condom use. This will only fuel

Putul, a sex worker and representative of NNSW adds “for many of us who earn our livelih
ood as
sex workers we have no choice but to oppose this


Public interest lawyers providing legal support to NNSW argue that the move to punish clients is
not in accordance with the existing legislative policy, as understood in the ITPA, which i
s to
punish third parties who profit from prostitution and not sex workers or their clients. “Now in the
name of preventing trafficking, sex workers and their clients are being targeted and criminalized,"
says Tripti Tandon of Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS U

India is the second country to penalize clients of sex workers. The only other country is Sweden.
Reports from there indicate that only street based prostitution has declined, most of sex work
has gone underground with increased control by internati
onal criminal gangs, with little
opportunity of providing health services to sex workers.

Ironically, on 23rd May 2006, one day after introducing the disputed Bill, the Minister of State for
Women and Child Development, Renuka Chowdhury informed the

Sabha that nearly one
lakh sex workers in India are HIV
positive and that over 400 government aided interventions are
working with sex workers. “Interventions that HIV groups fear will come to naught if the
proposed amendments become law", says Dr. Jana,
a doctor working with Care India.

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh

(response 1)

NEW DELHI (Reuters)

Plans to toughen India's laws to prevent human trafficking could drive
prostitutes underground and jeopardize HIV
prevention in a country suffering the wo
rld's second
highest caseload, health officials said on Thursday. The legislation, which would make it an
offence to visit a brothel to have sex with a victim of trafficking, has been proposed by the
Ministry of Women and Child Development. But it has run
into criticism from the Ministry of
Health and its HIV/AIDS program coordinators. "It (the law) is guided by moral feelings and
righteousness. And it will be a disaster for HIV prevention, I am sure of that," Dr Smarajit Jana of
the National AIDS Control O
rganization (NACO) told Reuters.

The women's ministry wants to tackle human trafficking by also handing out tougher penalties to
people who operate brothels. "This act basically says that brothel
based sex work will end and
that will be very damaging fo
r sex workers," Mona Mishra, who leads the United Nations
Development Programme's trafficking and HIV prevention project, told Reuters. "The brothels are
at least place where you can negotiate safety and insist on condom use." NACO says the changes
may end

up pushing the sex trade deeper into the shadows, making it harder for health workers
to reach some of the most vulnerable people in a
country, which
, by government figures, has 5.2
million people living with HIV

the second largest caseload in the world

after South Africa.

The National Network of Sex Workers, which is also campaigning against some of the
amendments, says that the law's new definition of trafficking is so vague that the police could
apply it to all sex workers.

At the moment, it is ill
egal to run a brothel in India but not to visit
one. The upshot of the new law, campaigners say, is that clients will steer clear of brothels for
fear of arrest India's health secretary echoed those concerns. "Sex workers cannot be driven
underground, and
anything that threatens them makes monitoring them much more difficult," P
K Hota told Reuters.

But Reva Nayyar, India's women and child development secretary, says the fears are unfounded
and that NACO's health workers would still be able to keep in co
ntact with sex workers. "Of
course they can still find them (sex workers)

they're just across the GB Road," she said,
referring to New Delhi's red light district. She said it was

necessary to punish clients who were
encouraging the trade and exploitation

of underage children.

The National Network of Sex Workers argues that sex workers themselves can be effective
watchdogs against trafficking. Putul Singh, a sex worker in the northern city of

Kolkata, said she
was part of a committee that helped rescue
aged girls from being forced into the trade.
"We have helped send almost 370 women home," she said.

Parliament is expected to vote on the changes to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act during the
monsoon session beginning in June.

G. Karunanid
, Tamil Nadu Network of PLHIV, Madurai

At the web page of New Indpress

there is a detailed account of the meeting of Sex Workers to oppose the ITPA
Amendment Bill which I have appended. The web page is available on logging in as a user.
Registration as a user is free

Sex Workers oppose ITPA Amend
ment Bill

Thursday May 25 2006 00:00 IST

NEW DELHI: Sex workers will be meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the
Opposition L. K. Advani and Union Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to register their protest
against the proposed amendment

to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA). The bill was
placed on the table of the Lok Sabha on May 22 after clearance from the Union Cabinet.
Presently, the bill has been referred to a Standing Committee of the Human Resources Ministry
following the a
gitation against the proposed amendments.

A representative of the Lawyers Collective, the legal advisory for NNSW, Tripti Tandon opened
the conference highlighting the impugned provisions. She stated that the present Act provides for
punishment of sex wo
rkers only if the activity is carried out in or near a public place. However
the new law would allow for easy arrest of clients, dependents of sex workers and any person
who can be booked for aiding and abetting prostitution. She further added that the bil
l in
defining `trafficking' has adopted from the UN Protocol on Trans
national Crime. However, the
act seems to be a blanket provision against prostitution instead of a tool against trafficking,
which is a much broader category, and prostitution is only on
e form of trafficking.

Mona Mishra, Project Manager

HIV & Trafficking of the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) pointed out that sex workers ought to have been a part of formulation of the amendment
bill because they are the people who will fa
ce the immediate outcome of the act. She further
added that the act would push sex workers to go underground and this would simultaneously
push trafficking to go underground as well. Accordingly, she claims that it will only further
criminalize the sex tra
de instead of preventing it.

Dr Smarajit Jana, regional HIV consultant, said that the entire initiative against HIV AIDS in India
would be disarrayed if the proposed amendment is brought into place. According to him the new
act would push the sex workers

into hiding that are the very people most traumatized with the
dreaded disease. According to him the booming economy of India is likely to suffer a great
setback, as the act would act as a major deterrent to the campaign against HIV AIDS and push
more and

more people into the dreaded disease.

Members of the NNSW Putul Singh and Mala Singh (also associated with the Bengal based
Durbar Mahila Samanway Committee) strongly opposed the bill saying that sex work helped them
earn their livelihood. They said tha
t the government must concentrate on activities that would
check trafficking below the age of eighteen and on HIV prevention programmes instead of
coming out with a bogus act that would have only a counter effect to the very thing it sought to
achieve. On
an emotional note Mala Singh added that she like any other sex worker did not want
her children to be engaged in the same profession and for this to be true she has to engage in
the only profession that would realize her ambitions.

The amended act will p
ut a ban on brothels, which is advocated to be safe places for sex workers
by an activist of the Social Action Survey for Manav Adhikar. She claimed that section 5(c) of the
amended act will have dangerous implications as it would increase violence against

According to a survey conducted by the

most of the clients that the sex workers
cater to during daytime are young boys who are first timers. Her survey claims that if these
clients would be suppressed as the proposed amendment seeks t
o do, then increase in violence
and abuse of women would be a natural outcome. It was made public in the conference that
senior leaders like Priya Das Munshi and Brinda Karat had reassured NNSW that the bill would be
given a rethink before it is brought in
to place.

Digambar Narzary
NEDAN Foundation
, Assam

The one and half day North East Regional Workshop on "Trafficking and HIV/AIDS" is scheduled
to be held on 29
30, June, 2006 at Guwahati, Assam. The expected representatives are from
Bhutan, Nepal, Ban
gladesh and Burma along with various stakeholders from eight states of North
East Region.

The purpose of holding this regional workshop is to highlight our deep concern on growing
scenario of trafficking and HIV/AIDS in the North East region and to addre
ss the trans
trafficking issue with our immediate neighboring South East Asian Countries. It will also be first
time in the region to bring all the eight states of North East Region's concern institutions, CSOs
and individual into one platform in st
rengthening mutual collaboration within the region and to
build strong network in countering trans
border trafficking and HIV/AIDS

of the North East

our neighboring countries.

The focus of deliberations and discussion will be defining parameters and

developing best
strategies to build larger involvement of various stakeholders working in the porous areas in
North East and to adopt the successful interventions strategies from other countries in countering
trafficking and HIV/AIDS. This conference will

look forward in strengthening ties and


regional co
operation between the civil society organizations, Judiciary System and other

on the issue of trafficking and HIV/AIDS. All interested organizations and individuals
from the natio
nal and international levels working on this issue are invited to participate with
their own capacity.

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh
(response 2)



please find details of the publication, "
Prevention of Trafficking and the Care and Support
of Trafficked Persons

Policy analysis Documentation of current intervention models
based study of trafficking
", published by the Asia Foundation, Nepal and the
Horizons Project Population

Council, New Delhi. Excerpts are appended.

Prevention of Trafficking and the Care and Support of Trafficked Persons

(Policy analysis Docum
entation of current intervention models Community
study of trafficking)

In recent years, millions of women and girls have been trafficked across borders and within
countries. The global trafficking industry generates an estimated five to seven billio
n U.S. dollars
each year, more than the profits generated by the arms and narcotics trades (Widgren 1994).
Over the last decade, the growing trafficking problem in South Asia has been recognized. Nepal
and Bangladesh have been designated as "sending" count
ries or countries of origin in the
regional web of trafficking. India and Pakistan are usually referred to as countries of "transit" or
"destination." Girls and women are trafficked within country boundaries, to other countries within
the region, and acros
s regions and continents beyond South Asia. The problem is particularly
acute in Nepal, one of the least developed countries of the world. This agrarian nation lacks
sufficient economic capital, infrastructure, and developed human resources. Ninety percent

of its
21 million inhabitants rely on subsistence agriculture. Adult literacy is as low as 23 percent for
females and 57 percent for males. Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in
the world. Historically, economic pressures have creat
ed a high level of migration in search of
sustainable livelihood options outside Nepal.

That migration level is escalating, particularly among men and women of prime productive and
reproductive age in certain districts (Sanghera 2000). The effort to aboli
sh trafficking in Nepal
intensified after a multi
party democracy was established in 19901. At that time, trafficking of
women and girls was identified as a priority issue 2. Within five years, non
organizations (NGOs) and community
based orga
nizations (CBOs) began to address and combat
the problem through expanded social, cultural, and economic programs. The international donor
community, including the United Nations, bilateral and multilateral donors, increased funding for
many social issues
that had been relegated to the background, including issues related to
women, children, bonded labor and human rights. His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMG/N)
established the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MOWCSW), and began to

national policies and plans to integrate women and children into the national
development process.

A watershed event occurred in February 1996 when the Indian government tried to forcibly
repatriate two hundred Nepali women from brothels in Mumbai. The
government of Nepal initially
refused to repatriate these "rescued” women. The emergency was somewhat diffused when a
group of seven Kathmandu
based NGOs intervened, organizing repatriation of the victims and
their subsequent care (ABC Nepal 1996; Pradhan
1996). This event drew considerable media
attention, especially when a number of girls were forcibly tested for HIV

and found positive.
Challenged by the immense need of these victims, many NGOs developed anti
programs, attracting considerabl
e support from international donor agencies. Awareness of the
HIV pandemic added a sense of urgency, since the social and economic processes underlying
trafficking are in many ways similar to those fueling the spread of HIV (AIDS Action 1998; UNDP

In 1997, Nepal's Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare formed a National Task Force
on Trafficking, with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the
International Labor Organization (ILO). Under this initiative, District Task
Forces were established
in 26 districts of Nepal, and a National Policy and Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking were
formulated. In 1998, an inter
agency United Nations Task Force on Trafficking was set up in
Nepal, under the coordination of the United Na
tions Development Programme. In March 1999,
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Trafficking Program identified
Nepal as one of the key countries for intervention, and organized two national workshops.
Currently, pilot projects have

been initiated in cooperation with the United Nations Task Force.
The High Commissioner is also examining the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) Draft Convention on Trafficking from the standpoint of human rights. The United

on Violence against Women selected Nepal as a focal country for a
report on trafficking submitted to the Human Rights Commission in April 2000.

Kaveesher Krishnan
, Hyderabad

(response 1)

I would like to share some of my though
ts based on a comprehensive literature review done as
part of my M. Phil thesis on conceptualizing empowerment of street based sex workers of Kerala

The issue of registration of Sex
Workers, which rather means to legitimize the sex trade,

ently being widely debated, with both the sides, those for and against it, putting forth strong
arguments supporting their cause. It is also necessary to recognize that the entire debate came
up in a big way only after

HIV started assuming alarming proport
ions and legalization of sex
trade was perceived to be facilitating the

HIV control efforts, which were undertaken on a
massive scale worldwide. It would be safe to say that the registration of sex workers had to be
placed under the ambit of legalization d
ebate is an extremely complex one, with

grey areas
within it.

Those who support pro
legalization views argue that sex workers reduce the incidence of rape,
functioning as vent to the suppressed emotions of the single men, or who have different sexu
preferences to those of their partners, helping them to express their sexuality in a harmless way.
Many sex workers themselves use like arguments, pointing out that as their work serves a social
purpose they should be free of police harassment and discr
imination. Those who support
legalization also agree to the fact that they do not want to be branded as prostitutes. What they
want to do is to stop extortion. Certain other activists argues for legal protection, which they say
will stop forceful entry int
o the profession, trafficking and curb child prostitution. It would also
ensure better working conditions and will give the sex worker the right to say ‘no’ to police and
mafia excesses.

More so, India’s legal approach towards the sex work also upholds
double standards. A feature of
the toleration system worldwide has been that in its implementation it has been used mostly
against the sex workers themselves. India’s legal approach is one of limited tolerance, where,
being a sex worker per se is not an of
fence and practicing sex work privately and independently
is also not a crime. But practicing and soliciting in or near a public place is a punishable offence,
the sex workers punishment is less stringent than that of her landlord, the brothel manager, or
someone accused of trafficking. The legal rights of sex worker in these laws include the rights to
rescue and rehabilitation. Sex workers do have the right to police protection just as any other
citizen. They can however, with sufficient support, take adva
ntage of existing loopholes and
contradictions in the law to achieve some basic rights.

The laws on prostitution are ambiguous and, as a result, sex workers are exploited by even the
police and rarely have fair access to law and justice. Most female sex
workers live under the
control of brutal and exploitative pimps, local gangsters and mafia. The Government, seems
unwilling to provide

sex workers with the same fundamental rights guaranteed by the
constitution to all and appears to be turning a blind eye
to the plight of the

sex workers and their
increasing vulnerability to HIV. Most sex workers, even today, have little ability to afford condoms
or negotiate, much less demand, that all their clients use condoms. They, thus, continue to be
highly vulnerable

to all Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Certain radical groups argue that, in sex work, one may or may not get pleasure or pain always
from it; one may or may not suffer from boredom or the challenges encountered in the job. But
for some women,
sex work is the only viable option to maintain her livelihood and there can
hardly be any contractual agreement in a job market without any exploitation.

Those who argue for the abolition of the trade focus on the negative effects pointing out the sex
rade caters to and perpetuates the commoditization

of women, that it could actually, increase
abuse against women because it reinforces the attitude that woman can be purchased and used
by men. Legalizing it would legitimize the myth that men have an unco
ntrollable sex drive.
Feminists working towards changing the society’s manifestly unfair attitude to all women and
their sexuality often use these arguments. To recapitulate, this widely debated theme has lot of
black and white matter that need to surpass
through diverse ideologies.

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh

(response 3)

Health card launched for sex workers

26 May 2006,

Mysore, UNI

m/deccanherald/may262006/update131 4232006526.asp

For the first time in the country, as many as 500 sex workers from the district will get smart
cards, an innovative health card, launched by the Ashodya Mahila Samanwayas Samithi (AMSS),
a community


The smart card project, the

of Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), AMSS and
Pennat Consulting Services, providers of software for the card, was launched as a pilot initiative
in the district and would be spread to neighbou
ring districts in future.

Speaking after handing
over the first card to AMSS Secretary Bhagyalakshmi at the concluding day of the two
national meet of sex workers here today, Karnataka State Aids Prevention Society Project
Director Shashidhar said to k
eep the card valid, sex workers should turn up for health check up
at least once in three months. Women had to report at their own health clinic set up by the

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Bhagyalakshmi said sex workers face social stigma and
imination in their day to day life. The smart card was not just plastic money, but a symbol of
esteem. It gave sex workers a sense of belonging to the society. ''It not only offered
business transactions, but also provided access to health services an
d gave us the pride that we
are using an IT tool,'' she added.

Malini, a sex worker from Kerala, who had penned her
autobiography, was honoured on the occasion.

The conference passed several resolutions, including networking with organizations at state
national and international level, providing care and support to AIDS patients, extending
healthcare to sex workers and their dependents, imparting legal literacy and providing legal
support to members, undertaking specific activities for old sex workers
and addressing other
needs of sex workers and their children.

Over 150 sex workers from Tamil Nadu, Andhra
Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala, besides Karnataka, took part in the event.

Nitin Jugran Bahuguna
, Freelance Journalist,

New Delhi

From Frying

Pan to Fire

by Nitin Jugran Bahuguna

In a move that could have far
reaching implications for sex workers, the Indian government
recently proposed significant ame
ndments to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 (ITPA).
The amendments aim to protect sex workers from exploitation at the hands of clients and police.
Two crucial amendments are the removal of Section 8, ITPA, which allows the police to book a
sex work
er on charges of seducing or soliciting customers in public places, and Section 20, which
relates to the removal of a sex worker from "any place". Another significant proposal is the
insertion of a new section 5C, which would, for the first, time, punish a

person visiting or found
in a brothel for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The Human Resources Development Ministry's Department of Women and Child Development
(DWCD) has approved the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2005. Even as the
Bill is posed for introduction in Parliament, strong criticism against the proposed legislation comes
in from an unexpected quarter

the sex workers themselves. "What will happen to our families if
clients are punished, and stop coming to us for fear of i
mprisonment," asks Mala Singh, a sex
worker from Sonagachi, the red light area in Kolkata, West Bengal. Her opinion, shared by many
other sex workers, is that the removal of Section 8 is self
defeating if Section 5C is introduced.

Perturbed by what they
see as a real threat to their livelihood, sex workers from across India
converged in New Delhi on December 7 to protest the proposed legislation and demand that the
government gives them fair hearing before framing laws for their benefit. The meeting was
ointly organized by New Delhi
based National Network of Sex Workers, the Kolkata
collective of over 65,000 sex workers Durbar Mahila Samanvay Committee (DMSC), and the
based NGO Lawyer's Collective.

"Unknown to us, the DWCD is pushing for a l
aw that penalizes clients visiting brothels," says
Malashree, a sex worker from Andhra Pradesh. Rajni, a eunuch sex worker from Bangalore,
Karnataka, is also plainly skeptical. "How many people are aware that, in the southern states of
India 'Hijras' (eunu
chs), can survive only by doing sex work. In Bangalore, at least 10 Hijras are
arrested every month under the Act. How is the new law going to help us when we have not
even been consulted in its framing," she objects. As a sex worker activist, Rajni works
with 2,000
hijra sex workers in Bangalore.

The government's contention, however, is that before any amendments are carried out, an
opportunity is given to different stakeholders to give their comments and suggestions on the
draft amendments. This is alwa
ys done either through an advertisement in all major daily
newspapers or through a notification in the official Gazette, an official source said. Delhi
human rights activist Joseph Gathia agrees. "There was a notification on this and some other Bills

in the major dailies sometime in March 2005. I distinctly remember seeing it, because there was
also a notification regarding the Domestic Violence Bill, for which I had made a representation,"
he says. He also points out that, for years, women's organiza
tions in India and across the world
have been demanding that laws should target clients, and not sex workers. "Nowhere in the
world is there a law punishing clients. Now, when the Indian government is taking the
unprecedented step of making clients account
able, as demanded by so many groups, these same
people are raising a hue and cry against it," Gathia says. Sex workers' organizations and those
who support their cause, however, have a range of other objections as well.

The move to punish clients is not
in accordance with the existing legislative policy as understood
in the ITPA, which is to punish third parties who profit from prostitution, explains Anand Grover,
Director, Lawyers Collective. He stresses that the ITPA does not criminalize prostitution pe
r se.

Sex workers' organizations acknowledge DWCD's attempt to review the law. In fact, Section 8

which the DWCD seeks to delete

is used extensively to harass sex workers who carry safe sex
tools, such as condoms. "This is a welcome move, but what i
s the point of removing penalties
against soliciting if the police can continue to harass us under the new Section 5C?" argues Mala
Singh. "The prohibitionist model has failed to protect sex workers, who are driven underground
by clients wanting to avoid t
he police. Sex workers are known to have experienced loss of control
over their working conditions and, as a result, have become vulnerable to violence, exploitation
by pimps and to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection," adds Tripti Tandon of th
Lawyers Collective's HIV/AIDS Unit.

Another amendment

to Section 13 (2)

proposes to give the powers of Special Police Officer
under the ITPA from the Inspector of Police to the Sub
Inspector. This is cause for alarm among
sex workers, who are worr
ied that this will give the local police additional power to harass them.
"Police powers under the law should be brought under scrutiny. Trafficking thrives not because
sex workers are party to it, but because of the nexus between the police and the mafia,
" says
Satyawati, a sex worker from Andhra Pradesh.

The police disagree. "Most police stations have only one inspector but at least two or three sub
inspectors. By delegating Special Police Officer powers to sub
inspectors, who are also senior
level offi
cers, cases can be registered more quickly and taken cognizance of," says O P Mishra,
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Delhi. In his opinion, this is a convenient
generalization. "You have to look at the police not as a whole, but in their differe
nt individual
approaches. The Delhi police has taken the lead, not only in the country but in South
East Asia,
by securing convictions against brothel owners based on complaints from sex workers. This has
led to the sealing of 11 brothels in the city so fa
r," he claims. Mishra, who was the Special Police
Officer in charge during some of the convictions against brothel owners, stresses that instead of
condemning the police, civil society should work with them. "All police officers are not involved in
afficking drives. I agree, however, that rigorous orientation and sensitization training is
essential for all police personnel working in this area," he adds. This echoes Gathia's concerns as
well: "The police and civil society have to mutually agree on ho
w to implement the Act. The
problem lies here, not in the provisions themselves."

Meanwhile, the

among the sex workers' organizations and public health organizations
is that the target
group, namely the sex workers, has

been ignored in the poli
cy framing process,
as a result of which their genuine and real issues have not been properly addressed.

Scherry Siganporia
, GTZ,
New Delhi

Is it possible for someone to explain what exactly the ‘smart card’ does? Is it also used for health

How is it monitored and are clients and services being tracked? What are its
limitations? Also, is it possible to introduce Smart Cards with migrant population? How does one
go about acquiring the same? What are the procedures? Any studies or research tha
t has proved
its effectiveness? I would appreciate a response from any member who could provide me basic

Lincoln Choudhu
Achuta Menon Center for Health Sciences Studies, Sree Chitra
runal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology,


Functions of a smart card:


main function of the smart card is to ensure usage for

a definite purpose


is a Card with a small chip and a program written in it just like an ATM card for with
drawing cash and purchasing goods like Petrocar


card carries information about the background of the person, some fixed data
elements like age, sex, address, occupation,

as well as

some variable data elements, like
the amount of money in the account and

the amount that reduces after each use



for this can only be purchased at designated places where one has the facility to
use the card. For

we can use the ATM card for cash withdrawal and for
purchase of goods from a shopping mall but not in every place like in a vege
table market
where cash transaction is the only possible way of purchasing vegetables. Basically we
need a card identifying machine.


is specific to one individual as it carries a account number and a place for
authentication Like password or signature o
n the bill.


is also a benefit as it ensures that the identified users uses it for a particular purpose
and the service availed can be traced back

If you look at the above example, it fits well into the migrant population. One can use the same
ard at various places inside the country what one has to do is go to the ATM counter. My

as I do not know about the initiative a lot; is that with this initiative in Karnataka they are
going one step ahead of providing services to the target populati
on. The sex worker can avail the
services from any of the clinics under the initiative through out the state. This is probably the
answer to the perennial problem of identifying the sex workers who travel from one place to
another. This will also clearly i
dentify the number of sex workers with out any duplication. For
your question on effectiveness, if you look at the ATM usage and card usage for purchasing
goods, I feel that it is quite effective.

Dr. Avnish Jolly

, Chandigarh
(response 4)

Please find

appended the


of an interview

from the Tribune on a success story of an NGO
in addressing trafficking.

Taking on traffickers

based Hema Bedi had no idea that one day she would start an anti
organization in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh. Six years after she set up Sthree,

she is a role
model for other NGOs. Recently, she was honoured by the Chennai
based Centre for Social
Initiative. She talks to Kuldip Dhiman about her mission

Could you give us some idea about the seriousness of the flesh trade problem, and the scale of


Nearly five million women and children were trafficked within the borders of India to meet the
demands of big city brothel houses in 2005 alone. Of this, Andhra Pradesh's contribution is nearly
35 per cent. The allied problem of

HIV is another time bo
mb that is ticking, as nearly half of the
trafficked girls are left to die in villages.

You believe in awareness through multiple
. How do you go about it?

Awareness is one thing, but it must also get translated into action. For example, whe
n we advise
family members to accept

HIV patients, we stay in the village for a night or two with the
trafficked girl, eat off the same plate as hers to show that

HIV does not spread through physical
contact. Then, we get alternative livelihood loans for t
hese girls fairly quickly, increasing the
confidence of other girls and the communities that had so far never seen such assistance. This
helped in other victims wanting to change their lives as well as prevented others from thinking
that prostitution would

be the only source of income for their livelihood. Further, we were the
first to offer care and support for the HIV+ members in the communities through referral
linkages to an

HIV hospital in Bangalore.

You must have upset a lot of people. What sort of
problems do you face?

We were threatened and attacked, but the truth of the matter is that "jo dar gaya, who
margaya". We know this work is difficult and dangerous, but it is to the credit of our volunteers,
our district and state police, as well as donors

that we have reached so far. Besides teething
troubles with the police, we created an impact on the communities and created a fear among the
traffickers by filing 54 PITA FIRs and arresting nearly 59 traffickers, over the last five years. Over
the last tw
o years, things have cooled off considerably and now the traffickers are seeking help
to avoid convictions.

What is the magnitude of the AIDS problem?

It is devastating. Unfortunately, too much emphasis is given to awareness raising, but little is
done t
o ensure care and support to the victims, besides testing facilities that at a time don't give
confirmatory reports for positive members. At the village level, only the rapid or Tri
elementary test is done, which will not show HIV during the window per
iod (six months), so the
patient is counseled and asked to return after six months for another check up. From experience,
we know that a villager does not return for a second check up, as he/she is so relieved that
his/her tests are negative. Also the sens
e of well being in the first three to five years or more
makes him or her confident that nothing is wrong. He/she may well be positive, but no
confirmatory test has been conducted, therefore he/she continues to have dangerous liaisons
with all and sundry,
infecting any and everybody in the process.

Once you rescue the girls, how do you help them start life

What is the success rate of

A rescued girl is brought to our shelter home, counseled and we prepare her to start life afresh.
e teach her skills, empower her through capacity buildings, education (formal or non
and hook her up to government schemes for livelihood options, land and housing loans, or free
housing schemes. We also give her all round exposure through visits t
o other donor or NGO
partners, or in making products we expose her to the marketing linkages. In some cases, we
train them to have their own micro
enterprises and give them basic business management skills.
The underlying philosophy is

A community empowe
red to produce regular income for below
poverty line families will not see their women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Ajay Singh
JP Associates (P) Limited,
New Delhi

According to my view, trafficking needs to be addressed through prop
er mechanisms. First the
Government has to think about the proper employment of sex workers. A


analysis study
is useful to find out the availability of the job opportunities for sex workers. We can base the
study on the following aspects:

Human Resour
ce Development

Performance appraisal system

Promotion policies

Transfer Policies

Transparency and accountability

Performance standard norms

Performance indicators

I think job opportunities could be provided to the sex worker before passing this amendment

because in the present amendment sex workers will loose their means of income. They would
most probably be scared of practicing their profession openly because on introduction of this new
amendment the clients also would be penalised along with them. This

will undo the present
interventions by the Government where as publications have shown that programmes to promote
condom use in sex work has been useful in curbing the epidemic.

Dr. Amitrajit Saha
, Kolkata

(response 1)

Would be interested to know specifically what the KHPT
AMSS "smart card" does in terms of
services, etc. Does it give cash or goods incentives for attending clini
cs, for example? Could
someone from KHPT or AMSS respond please? This seems a very exciting example and therefore
we need to know more on how and for what this particular smart card can be used...

Dr. Amitrajit Saha

, Kolkata

(response 2)


to respond to

the appended one by Dr. B. K. Sharma

so late...but I thought one must.

A few things:

1. First, I would concur and second Dr. Sharma's last comment: "I believe it is high time that we
realize the facts and accept sex trade as one of the pro
fession which has been there since the
beginning of time... The need of the day is to regularize this trade and the sex workers involved
in it; arm them with awareness as well as the precautions and wherewithal required to practice
safe sex. This also enta
ils respecting their rights to be looked after and cared for as human
beings with a positive attitude towards them. Then only can there be some slowing down of the
spread of STI and HIV in India."

2. However, having said that I'd like to ask Dr. B. K. Sh
arma what is his evidence base for the
earlier comment: "The main reason for spread of HIV in India is through sex workers..." If he has
no evidence base for this comment then he should refrain from

such loose comments that further
stigmatize sex workers a
nd continue to reinforce the discrimination against them.

3. When shall we realize that saving the society from the evils of HIV is not the sex workers'
onus, nor

is it their job? Sex workers need stigma
free STI and HIV services, and creation of
ng environment to ensure safer sex practices to save themselves from risk in a profession
where occupational hazards happen to be increased risk of STI and HIV. No one ever says that
doctors need personal protection devices

namely gloves and PEP to save so
ciety... so why should
sex workers have the duty to do so either?

4. Neither registration, nor licensing, nor even legalization actually works to improve the lot of
sex workers if these are imposed from above and enforced through outside agencies. What
orks, on the contrary and there

is good

evidence base for this; is creating enabling
environments, forming organizations of sex workers, sex worker ownership of resources including
owning of projects and their resources, sex workers' management and monitor
ing of such
projects, struggles for human and civil rights, struggle to claim social space as workers and
human beings, struggle to change

laws that conspire to marginalize sex workers and make them
more vulnerable of which the ITPA and its myriad amendmen
ts is a case in point as well


regulatory mechanisms that ensure continuation of changed behaviour and
improved living and working conditions.

Dr. Shalini Khare
, Kanpur

It is great to be part of the AIDS community network and it is

enlightening to share
thoughts and information with experts. I

a Dentist and due to my keen interest in Public
Health, I

like to work on

HIV issues.

Regarding the query,

I would like to know if

there is any data on educating sex workers about
h issues and about condom

I read about the smart card system. Is it applicable


India as well?

Any comments on how well it was accepted in South?

Dr. Amitrajit Saha
(response 3)

Another website of an anti
trafficking interv
ention: this time the intervention was conceived by
sex workers and is run by the sex workers' organization namely Durbar Mahila Samanwaya
Committee (DMSC) in Kolkata...

DMSC is a forum exclusively of sex workers and their children. It was formed in July, 1995, when
a group of sex
workers from Sonagachi, one of the oldest and largest red light areas of Kolkata
organized and collectivized themselves to create

solidarity and collective strength among a larger
community of sex workers, forge a positive identity for themselves as sex workers and mark out
a space for acting on their own.

Suneel Qamra
Regional Medical Research Centre for Tribals,



appended two
year old report at
http://www.hi 0.htm

talks about the
National Commission

for Women (NCW) opposing the registration of sex workers. I would be
particularly interested if members from Maharashtra could update us on the present status of the

stand taken by NCW.

Stop registration of sex workers, NCW tells Maharashtra

By Our Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI: JULY 7. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked the Maharashtra
Government to stop the "registration of professional sex work
ers'' in the State, make checking at
the entry and exit points in Mumbai more stringent and recommended strict action against
policemen who were callous towards checking the flourishing sex trade in the city. The NCW
chairperson, Poornima Advani, told repo
rters here today that it was unfortunate that the
professional "sex workers'' in Mumbai were virtually "licensed'' by the police, and they maintained
a register giving details about these women, including their photographs.

These issues were taken up by

Ms. Advani during her meeting with the Deputy Chief Minister of
Maharashtra yesterday. During her visit to Mumbai, Ms. Advani, along with the chairperson of the
Juvenile Justice Welfare Board, had made a surprise visit to a "red
light area'' on DB Marg in

Girgaum where she found several minor girls engaged in the profession. "These girls come from
Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, but very few from Maharashtra. It is a
massive racket involving pimps, house owners, brothel
owners and e
ven customers,'' she said.

Ms. Advani had visited a multi
storeyed building in Girgaum area of South Mumbai where the
women informed her that they were "registered'' with the police and were hence immune to
prosecution. Many of the women live with their

minor children. "The landlords have filed writs in
the court for evacuation, which is more to protect themselves from police action because the
cases are never pursued and even the attitude of the police seemed callous,'' she said adding
that the policeme
n who were called to the spot made it clear that the women and the
"customers'' would be challenged under the Mumbai Police Act and then let off.

However, a meeting with the Chief Secretary and other senior officials of Maharashtra led to the
arrest of
100 "customers'' and 34 pimps and brothel
owners under the Indian Penal Code
because living on the earnings from prostitution is an offence. The offenders have been charged
with kidnapping and rape under the I.P.C.

Ms. Advani said that out of the 25 girls

taken to a
hospital for age verification, as many as three were minors. "However, the process for age
verification often shows variations and we have now written to the Dean of the hospital to reveal
to us the process applied in age verification,'' she sa
id. "We have also demanded speedy and
accurate detection of minors involved in the trade, rehabilitation of minor girls who are forced
into the profession and improvement in the condition of short
stay homes which are so badly
maintained that the girls pre
fer brothels,'' she pointed out.

Prabhjot Sodhi

UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program, New Delhi

I felt drawn into this debate and I was discussing this with a group of housewives to take their
perspectives and views.

I was surprised
at the diverse
views, which

communities hold. I accept
the many points raised here by

Dr. Saha and others. The views which I

also endorse are:

First in the

there was a strong resentment among members of society

we should not encourage sex

Some felt that this was a very optimistic view.

It was
also felt that if we ban

if only we could

then it is great, as it would restrict people
from going to


However, many were quick to add that it is not that the women
are involved, but

rather pushed into it, some by fate and the others by compulsions.

even after banning sex work, it just goes underground and never diminishes
really, bringing up the question of

how to


Next point that came up was that if we need to recogniz
e this as an institutional trade
then why the practice of Bar girls was stopped

in Maharashtra with such a hue and


the Maharashtra Government

lifted the ban on Bar Girls.

The Bars are once
more open, and now is the time as the girls are back tha

awareness needs to be created
at all levels, care services established, as this is the most important preventive policy to
avoid the spread of HIV.

Another debate that emerged was that if we are supposed to be

institutionalizing sex
work, then we have to


for the

lives of sex workers

once they age and their

glamour is gone. Who would support them and how, what do we do about their
livelihoods then,

what do we plan


their vulnerable children...

May be the issues

are not as simple as we all a
re comprehending. it has many social, cultural and
economic barriers and strings attached to it, which need to be addressed as policy issues.

B. K. Bartaria

Goodrich Management Consultants,


(response 1)

Sex work

is an

system in the so
ciety and there are incidents where such women have
even participated in the freedom struggle of the country.

The profession should be accorded
dignity than only this will be possible. Worker, whether a casual worker, industrial worker or sex
worker is a r
espectable word and should be given due dignity in the society.

A woman

allows some one to use

her body for

intercourse and sexual pleasure is known as a sex
worker. By the same logic, any intellectual

in the world who works for others is


mental prostitution.

Sex workers should

be issued the registration card from any authority of the government, more
over they should

have a medical

certificate from the doctor that they

had undergone the last
regular medical check up. The smart card told

by others was a step in this direction of combining
registration with medical services. However, the fear is that issuing of the card will identify them
and the hypocrites in society will never accept them with dignity.

If society is aware of the risks

involved there need not

be any restriction on

sex work


will automatically evolve the guidelines for

regulating sex work


its own time. In
some countries the encouragement of sex work with the hospitality industry

has boosted the
economic cond
ition of the sex workers and

enhanced tourism as well as earnings in foreign
exchange. It is reported that in big International events

like the Football World Cup

and Film
Awards there is usually a shortage of sex workers.

The need for sex workers is als
o due to the unequal ratio of girls and boys in the society created
by selective killing of the

female child in the womb. Therefore, realizing this and addressing

gender discriminatory issues will in the long run pay returns in reducing the spread of
fact a logical extension of this argument would be that the

proponents of the 'Be Faithful',


is the second in the 'ABC' of prevention of HIV should

also work with



for abolishing


There is a strong need for good
advocacy with the law on implementing ITPA. Many times the

just raid and arrest the sex workers under the Immoral Trafficking Act, but in none of
these cases does a conviction of the brothel owner

takes place.

The 'morality' factor in this


to be defined, then only sex

work as a profession can

be given the status of

and issue of cards

thought about will be successful.

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh
(response 5)

Please find appended an article at
466 .html

entitled "
Programme Experiences: Sonagachi Project

" which shows

other development efforts can be done beyond registration and an
trafficking of sex workers
once there is

a coordinated effort between

, NGO, and the CBO of sex workers. As it
provides answers to the issues raised by Mr. B. K. Bartaria, I would like to know from others if
this blueprint for the well
being o
f sex workers can be

Programme Experiences: Sonagachi Project



Launched in 1992 by the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, the Sonagachi Project
began as a small health promotion project to inform sex workers in Ko
lkata (Calcutta), India
about AIDS as well as to promote condom use and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing in
this community. The mobilization effort, which was conducted in Sonagachi red light district, has
evolved into a multi
faceted community

effort to empower sex workers (particularly women) in
ways that go beyond HIV prevention. The project, which is a collaboration between government,
government, and community
based organizations, works in over 40 areas throughout the
state of West Beng
al to address a community of around 60,000 male, female, and transgender
sex workers based in brothels, streets, and hotels.

Main Communication Strategies

Efforts to empower people with knowledge and tools for health are at the centre of this
Peer educators provide sexual health and HIV education to sex workers and
madams, and distribute condoms. As of this writing, 43 STI/HIV clinics in and around the red
light areas and its districts of West Bengal offer treatment to sex workers and their chi

The present programme has broadened its base to include various development components, not
just health and HIV. Women who cannot read attend literacy classes, taught by other sex
workers, and enroll their children in daycare, school, and other p
rogrammes. To support these
formal education efforts, 29 educational centers in and around the red light area of Kolkata
have been set up. To foster economic security, sex workers seeking credit are invited to
patronize a community
lending cooperative
that provides affordable loans. Registered in 1995,
this cooperative society of sex workers (Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Society) today has over
5000 members. As part of its empowerment strategy, the Sonagachi Project also promotes the
talents of sex wor
kers through a cultural wing

'The Komal Gandhar'. In addition, an anti
trafficking unit controlled by self

works across West Bengal to protect

two homes are also in operation to provide a safe shelter for children in distress

Participation is a key feature of this project. In 1995, the sex worker community being served by
the project came forward to develop their own network

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee

and to create forums, such as workshops and seminars,
dealing with basic rights to
health in the broader framework of livelihood security and the right to self
determination. DMSC
took over management of the project in 1999. Sex workers get involved through DMSC's
Women's Coordinating Committee. The group has

become an advocate for the rights and
interests of sex workers, and is leading a movement to demand the decriminalization of
prostitution. According to one DMSC official, "An effective community development approach to
HIV/STI prevention must make communi
ty participation real by building human and community
capacity to participate. This creates the social space for participation and transfers project
ownership to the community."

In recent years, DMSC has been mobilizing sex workers in the districts of W
est Bengal to
replicate the Sonagachi model in other brothel settings. To stimulate involvement and
commemorate its years of work, Sonagachi conducts annual sex worker
conferences/celebrations. The 2004 event, conducted in partnership with the National Net
work of
Sex Workers, will take place in Kolkata from February 15 2004 to March 3 2004, and will feature
speeches, folk music and dancing, live drama, panel discussions (e.g., "Strategy & Policy to
Combat Trafficking"), seminars (e.g., on violence and women
's subordination), discussions (e.g.,
"A Decade of Our Struggle for Sex

Workers: Rights
media perception"), peer education sessions,
and evening cross
cultural food festivals. Each year, DMSC observes March 3 as the International
Day for Sex Workers Rights

Development Issues

HIV/AIDS, Health, Rights, Literacy, Women, Children, Economic Development.

Key Points

Traditionally regarded as vectors of STIs, sex workers have, according to organizers, long been
viewed as a population to be "controlled" in the
interest of public health or as a passive audience
for health promotion activities. Highly stigmatized, engaged in illicit and usually illegal activities,
and socially disenfranchised, they say, sex workers have had little voice in how they are treated
the public health establishment. Furthermore, organizers claim, little attention has been paid
to their non
related needs, their perspectives, and the context of their lives and

Evidence exists to support the claim that this projec
t has had an impact. In 1992, rates of
consistent condom use with clients in the previous 2 months was 1%. By 2001, that figure had
increased to 65%. Prevalence of syphilis dropped during that period from 25% to 8.76%. From
1992 to 1998, HIV prevalence amo
ng female sex workers increased from 1% to 5%; however,
the 1998 figure for Mumbai, Bombay was 51%.

The Sonagachi Project has been identified as a World Health Organization (WHO) model project.

For more information, contact:

Mrinal kanti Dutta


Director, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee Swapna Gayen Secretary,

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee 12/5, Nilmoni Mitra Street Kolkata 700006 West Bengal,

Tel.: +91 33 2543 7560/7451
Fax: +91 33 2543 7777



"The Sonagachi Project: A Global Model for Community Development", Horizons Report May
2002; and announcement posted by Mrinal kanti Dutta and Angura Begum to the Sex
Forum on February 12 2003; and letter sent from Swapna

Gayen to The Communication Initiative
on February 6 2004.

Placed on the Communication Initiative site January 12 2004.

Last Updated February 06 2004.

Bhaskar Mittra
Sir Dorabji Tata Trust


I also think


from the cultural, social and econ
omic ramifications, there are also issues like
religious ramifications as in the case of the Devadasis in Karnataka wherein they are forced into
it. As you correctly pointed out, the issues are not as simple as they may seem and need

both socially
and politically.

Dr. Ravishwar Sinha
, New Delhi


Health card is a very good example of doing something positive. We need as

support people who are disadvantaged not discriminate against them. History is very clear


efforts have been launched in the

it has only brought for more
corruption and has always defeated the purpose. Registration of sex workers, I feel is a measure
that can be done in practice. If this is abolished it will only drive everything unde
rground, thus
putting the community to greater risk.

Let's be helpful and help the not so well off, regain their
esteem in the community.

Dr. Archana R. Singh
, Department of Mass Communication, Punjab University,

I understand that the b
est approach would be to improve the communication system in a three
pronged manner. CSW to CSW, CSW to Health care systems, and Health Care systems to rest of
us. Registration of CSWs should not be understood as a stigma whereby they feel further
ed as a discriminated group. Smart Card method may work only if the society is open to
accepting CSWs as mainstream which they really are. Every group has I Cards for identification,
so should organizations working for the betterment of the CSW group offer

to register them and
provide I Cards, it would be
a well

recognized profession and not an ill
recognized one. However,
this requires more a change in the mind set of the rest of us rather than

change on
their part.

The discussion here focuses
so much on the regular sex trade by the CSWs who are easily
identifiable. However, there are a number of them who are not. Sex trade no longer is the
domain of the so called 'red light areas'. Hence, the issue is not to just register the illiterate,
unate CSW but to popularize the use of condoms and control of HIV and STI
by planned

researched, target
specific and long
term campaigns using community
specific media ,
language and methods.

Amrita Nandy Joshi
, Oxford University, UK

The smart ca
rd does sound quite promising, as per the description provided by one of the
members of the discussion forum. It could be certainly empowering in some ways, especially for
medical and health reasons but might not answer many of the other questions, such as

or 'stigma' which had also surfaced in this forum. I wonder if we are looking at sex work only
through the narrow
critical prism of HIV. Even European countries with seemingly liberal
attitude towards commercial sex work have and continue to

battle with other concerns that it
leads to. Pornography, SM, sexual violence and sexual objectification of women are just some of
the many smaller parts of the wide gamut of the debate and, in my opinion, cannot be evaded.
Incidentally, and I quote a rec
ent BBC report here: "a political party with a

agenda has
been registered in The Netherlands, prompting outrage among many parts of society. The party
plans to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and for legalizatio
n of
child pornography as well as

sex with animals.

However, CSWs seem far from being accepted in the mainstream.
A viciously phallic

both propagates and victimizes these women. Plus, there are other nuances. Some
women, born in brothels

or to other women who might be practicing sex work in a more
clandestine manner, might take it up as any other profession. One wonders if they will be a
minority or what section of the institutionalized sex workers

it will be foolish though to

o that area without any evidence.

'Changing mind
sets' seems to be asking for too much from an identity card. Also, from my
limited interaction with sex workers and truck drivers in a district in Rajasthan revealed that sex
workers had started insisting

on the use of condoms and stocked them for use. Some would
refuse clients who did not agree. However, such a stance is tough to sustain for these daily
wagers. Most truck drivers who admitted that they regularly visited

CSWs said that they

paid extr
a for sex without condoms.
It is

the pleasure principle at work. How does one tackle that
though this may be a different query altogether.


M. S. R. Murthy
, Departments of Population Studies and Social Work,

Venkateswara University, Tirupati

It is highly interesting to read the discussion on sex workers. I wonder how the sex worker's
registration continued then in J and K when the rest of India were apparently only slowly
progressing on this issue. It is the mindset. Sex workers over the years

are slowly merging into
mainstream elsewhere as seen from the postings. However, some greedy persons playing to the
lust of others lure young girls into the trade to earn money. Many such rackets were busted in
several parts of Andhra Pradesh and I hear i
n other parts of India. Some comment the danger of
HIV had prevented several people from voluntarily indulging in this trade.

J and K
Government should try to make a study in the state before repealing it. They should come out
with a document wi
th the opinions of the sex workers, the people and the experts. The steps
taken based on the outcomes of both the study and consultation would be more acceptable to all

Dr. V. Rukmini Rao
, Gramya Resource Center for Women, Secunderabad

nse 1)

Experiences in European countries shows that legalizing sex work reduces the hardships women
face in terms of police harassment. Registration provides women access to regular health check
ups. In India we need to contextualize. With the moral polic
ing going on and corruption in the
system it is difficult to imagine that sex workers will benefit from registering. What we need is a
strong voice for the women themselves to articulate their demands. To deal with HIV prevention
men have to be educated to

use condoms and practice safe sex. Registration will help if women
sex workers have a strong alliance and can call the police to throw out men seeking sex who
refuse to practice safe sex.

Dr. Dheeraj Kattula
, Department of Psychiatry, Christian Medical

College, Vellore

Your posting asking for possible benefits of registering

sex workers

and the rules regulating them
assumes that there are benefits.

We must realize that the law should be ideal. Any compromise
on defining ideal for pragmatic reasons wou
ld show wrong direction for the society's future.

Our heart is for the weak sex
worker, who is

in the profession looked down by others.



puts her in high risk of STIs including HIV. We must cater to her needs especially her
health needs. In m
y opinion, as responsible citizens and health providers we


support commercial sex


So, we must strike a balance by handing over the

care of

sex workers

to NGOs, while the Governments could support them through

The same NGOs can cater to some of their social and other development needs as
felt by the community. Health cards could be used as proxy ID cards without outright labeling. At
the same

any escalation in

trafficking activity should be brought under
check by responsible

In this there is no conflict, as we are all for healthy society, namely health for the



the possible clients.

Shalina Mehta

Department of Anthropology, Punjab University, Chandigarh

Dr. Avnish Jolly’s qu
ery has evoked interesting responses and some probable solutions. I have
followed the debate with caution and must admit with inquisitiveness. Since the debate was
posted between AIDS and Gender forums, I was expecting a lot more rigorous reactions.
My contentions on the issues, that one has been involved with for many years and which have
been debated often in various forums can be briefly summed up as:

Smart Card is a good idea but given the way our health system is currently structured
and the kind

of investment central and state governments are making in the health

is it a practical and viable solution?

Are our health care
providers at various levels of the system trained and sensitized to the
problems of sex workers, in particular those c
oming form the lowest socio
strata of the society?

It is a gross error of judgment to assume that all those women, who provide sexual

and are compensated in cash, can be clubbed together as a social category and
provided registration servic
es to safeguard their economic, health and social interests.
We have not even evolved social mechanisms by which we can arrive at an
understanding of which category of

sex workers

require what kind of safety nets.

Sonagachi for nearly a decade now is proje
cted as the 'successful model' for intervention
and future strategizing. The model has been debated and critiqued in various forums. It
was often brought forth that the kind of financial in
puts Sonagachi received in the
beginning can not be replicated in
other parts of the country. Different cultural profiles of
the organized

sex worker

communities were also regarded as a probable constraint in
accepting any packaged intervention programme. The success of Sonagachi was its
organizational base and its abili
ty to ensure safe sex for the participating members of the
community. It was constantly pointed out by the experts that the history of organization
backed sex work in Calcutta was largely instrumental in the successful implementation of
the intervention pr
ogramme. A pre
condition that is not available in most other parts of
the country.

We are looking at the question of registration for

sex workers

in isolation. We are
assuming that legislation in

of registration can bring about any phenomenal change
in the condition of a section of our society. I am afraid, while doing so; we are living in a
Utopia. There are postings that have shown that registration and legislation in some of
the countries in Europe and South
Asia may have reduced the prevalence of
HIV but it
has not stopped sexual exploitation of the poor, weak and the minor girls.

Also, I do not know why, even among the community of experts our focus continues to
be only on female sex workers, and we persist in ignoring what happens to male sex
kers, Hijras

and Eunuchs. There is urgent need to evolve integrated strategies and
build holistic perspectives, keeping in view socio
economic realities of the systems within
which we live.

Dr. Joe Thomas


Please find
appended an article from

which was also

posted in AIDS

So, it

can also be seen at
INDIA/message/5675 ?viscount=100

This is an
Autobiography of a Sex Worker
'. Excerpts of it especially t
he last two sections on
Jwalamukhi and the future of sex workers,

has relevance to this query on Registration of sex

as Nalini Jameela recounts

the needs felt by the community

in a compelling

narrative of


Beyond Boundaries

ni Jameela: Oru Lyngika Thozhilaliyude Atmakatha, (Autobiography of a Sex

prepared by I Gopinath; D C Books, Kottayam, 2005; pp 151, Rs 70.

by P S Leela

When Nalini Jameela’s autobiography was first published in June 2005, it created ripples i
Kerala. It is no literary masterpiece, but it is remarkable that such a book, authored by a 52
old sex worker, has been published in Malayalam. It has initiated a wider public discussion on sex
and the need for proper sex education, and it has quest
ioned prevailing hypocrisy on sex, both of
which are rarely discussed openly in Kerala. The book tells Nalini Jameela’s story and reflects her
experiences and struggle in a conservative society.

Nalini Jameela begins her life story… “Now I am 51 years o
ld, I would like to live as a sex
worker…”. Needless to say, widespread anxiety and anguish greeted her book when it was

back, when Kamala Das serialized her autobiography Ente Kadha (later
published in English as My Story) in Malayala Na
du Weekly, the moral policemen of Kerala
savagely blackened her personality for daring to openly speak the truth. As the reception to
Jameela’s story shows once again, Kerala society has demonstrated that it is impossible to accept
such an “indecent” book,

that too one written by a woman.

In such a society, when a sex worker openly dignifies her profession and compares it with other
services like teaching, it is no wonder that cultural pillars are shaken. That Nalini says that she
wants to continue to li
ve her life as a sex worker is, of course, a blow to the Malayali who holds
dear the family mantra and firmly believes in a patriarchal family structure dominated by the
“man of the house” and where the wife is ruled by her husband. Kerala stands at the ve
ry top of
the literacy ladder, but it is also a place where you wake up each morning to the news of sex
scandals, child abuse and sex tourism. That Nalini Jameela who talks about wives being sexually
abused by their husbands or treated as legalized sex wor
kers would not receive the support,
even covertly, of the women of Kerala, was only to be expected.

No child is born as a sex worker. Neither was Nalini. She was born into the same society where
parents teach their girl

“sex is a sin” and that
the “woman has to safeguard her
chastity”. Girls from childhood are told an old proverb, roughly translated as, “If a leaf falls on a
thorn or a thorn falls on a leaf, it is only the leaf that suffers”. In Nalini’s home, her mother had
no power despite the

fact that the house was run with her earnings as a mill worker. Nalini’s
father’s pension was insufficient for meeting his many diversions. Outside home he was a
communist, but inside no less than a dictator. When her mother lost her job, Nalini had to
scontinue school in the third standard and began to work in a sand quarry. At the quarry,
female workers were regularly sexually harassed. It was a part of the women workers’ duty to
“satisfy” the needs of owners and contractors. The quarry was also where
girls and young
women often had brief infatuations. Nalini survived this phase without any bruises despite her
own infatuations. When Nalini’s brother married without his father’s consent, she supported him,
for which
her father beat her up
. Finally, Nalin
i decided to escape the four walls of the house.

Dawn of a Sex Worker

Outside home, Nalini faced insecurity. She wanted food and shelter. So when a thug in her
village offered her marriage, she did not hesitate. He gave her food, clothing and shelter,
promised, but also sexually exploited her. More than a wife, Nalini was a legalized sex worker.
When she questioned her husband’s extramarital

she was assaulted. And Nalini became
addicted to the arrack he brewed and sold from home. Nalini coul
d understand the meaning of
the lascivious looks she invited from the clients who visited their home to buy arrack. But as she
was the “wife” of a ‘goonda’ no one dared touch her. However, she lost that security when her
husband died after th0ree years of
marriage, leaving behind two children. The old customers of
her husband tried to help her, but knocked at the door in the night. Her mother
law was
willing to look after her son’s children, but demanded Rs 5 a day, which was more than Nalini’s
daily wag
e in the quarry. It was in such conditions that Nalini became a sex worker.

Since then Nalini has been in the profession of sex work, except for two breaks during two more
marriages. Many clients came to her, different personalities with different needs
. She moved
from place to place, changing various “company houses”. Some of these houses were run by
proud nair families. A variety of people approached Nalini

police officers
, cultural
activists and others. Her path was rough and risky, uni
maginable for an ordinary woman. She
faced police harassment, encountered local goondas, escaped from a gang rape attempt and
even death. For a brief period, she enjoyed a normal family life. Twice she tried to settle down as
wife and mother, and even had
a daughter. It was after her third marriage that she assumed the
name of Nalini Jameela. But this did not last. Nalini developed acute health problems; her
husband’s attitude towards her also changed gradually. She eventually left her husband’s house
her 13
year old daughter. After putting her daughter in a house as a domestic servant, she
worked in the Erwadi mental hospital in Tamil Nadu. There she saw the poor conditions and ill
treatment of the mental patients. Then she begged on the streets for so
me time, moving from
one place to another, church to church and somehow reached the medical college at
Thiruvananthapuram where she was treated for a tumor in her leg. When she recovered, she
went back to sex work.

Jwalamukhi: A Turning Point

Nalini’s l
ife changed with her association with Jwalamukhi, an organization which works for sex
workers’ rights. That was a turning point in her life. It was a platform on which she could share
her problem with others. Study classes were conducted for the sex worker
s to make them aware
of AIDS and the need for safe sex. They discussed harassment by the police and exploitation by
middlemen. They demanded a human rights approach towards sex workers. At Kozhikode, where
Nalini had moved, life was miserable due to freque
nt police raids and arrests that were made on
up charges. One sex worker who was arrested “vanished” from the custody and her
body was found later. This incident sparked off mass protests by many civil society organizations,
but no one could establ
ish the culpability of the police. (Nalini even speaks about the need for
safe places where a sex worker can meet her client without any police interference.) For Nalini,
the association with Jwalamukhi eventually led to her traveling abroad to attend glob
conferences. With the travel came exposure and soon she acquired the skill to make
documentary films.

The conflict at the global level between feminists and sex workers is reflected in Kerala too.
Feminist groups extend their support to sex workers b
ut only up to a limit. They accept the
fundamental rights of sex workers, but their rehabilitation policy is unacceptable to the sex
workers. Nalini Jameela too is against rehabilitation. According to her, no rehabilitation policy has
been successful. “The

sex workers who come to this field on their own do not need any
rehabilitation, because they have a job. They work with their body, just as some people work
with their hands, others with their heads.”

The Future?

In her book, Nalini Jameela is silent
about the future of sex workers and their social security.
Since basic factors like age and health determine the duration of their profession, sex workers
cannot work beyond an age. Later they have little social security to fall back on. The legalization
f sex work may solve many of their problems, especially routine police harassment, but even
this is only up to a limit. Goondas and middlemen would remain active and their harassment of
sex workers would not end with legalization. And there is another terr
ible side to sex work, which
one cannot remain oblivious to. Many young girls are exploited and forced into this job;
trafficking even takes teenaged girls abroad. As has happened in other professions, in this field
too, the “demand” for sex workers in cer
tain categories is high in our

world. And other
sex workers, who cannot reach these global standards remain “last grade sex workers”. The
author dignifies her work and at the same time she is happy with the “normal” lives her
daughters appear to
be living. Nalini Jameela believes that she has more freedom than an
average woman to “choose” a man and she can select her child’s father, even if this was not
“allowed” to her.

Through her unusual book Nalini Jameela offers us an opportunity to sort o
ut and question this
complicated and sensitive issue of sex work. Before joining Jwalamukhi, Nalini Jameela was an
ordinary sex worker, who worked for food and shelter. But joining this NGO and sharing the
experiences of other sex workers has given Nalini
Jameela the strength to accept her social
stigma with dignity.

Dr. Avnish Jolly,


(response 6)

Please find appended an article entitled "
" which shows that

the legislature's

attempt to stop age
old practices

that were


young girls into sex work. On another issue of this query, I would like to know
if the

Mass Movement of Women

had its spin off on the well
being of

sex workers.






Short title and extent.




Dedication as devadasi to be unlawful.


Marriage of devadasi.




Protection of action taken in good faith.


Power to make rules.




Act 1 of 1984



Devadasi Abolition Act of Bombay State and a similar Act of Madras
Government are in force in the Bombay Karnataka Area and in Bellary District respectively. It was
also found that in some parts of Karnataka the Devadasi System is still in force and the w
who are inducted to this system are in a pitiable condition and this has led them to take up
prostitution for a living. Therefore it is found necessary to bring forward a legislation to

this social evil and to rehabilitate the victims. Dedica
tion of a woman as Devadasi is made an
offence and in order to make the provisions more effective, higher punishment is provided for a
person abetting the offence if he happens to be the parent, guardian or relative of the woman.
Hence the Bill.


in the Karnataka Gazette Part IV
2A (Extraordinary) No. 75 dated 3
1982 at page


(First published in the Karnataka Gazette Extraordinary on the Thirty
first day of January,
CATION) ACT, 1982 (Received the
assent of the President on the eleventh day of January, 1984)An Act to prevent dedication of

women as devadasis in the State of Karnataka.

WHEREAS the practice of dedicating women as devadasis to deities, idols, objects of
temples and other religious institutions or places of worship exists in certain parts of the State of
Karnataka ; AND whereas such practice leads women so dedicated to a life of prostitution; AND
whereas it is expedient to put an end to the practi
ce ; BE it enacted by the Karnataka State
Legislature in the Thirty
third Year of the Republic of India as follows :

1. Short title and extent

(1) This Act may be called the Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1982.

(2) It extends to

the whole State of Karnataka.

2. Definitions

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,

(a) "dedication" means the performance of any act or ceremony, by whatever name called, by
which a woman is dedicated to the service of any deity, idol, ob
ject of worship, temple, other
religious institutions or places of worship;

(b) "devadasi" means a woman so dedicated;

(c) "temple" means a place by whatever designation known, dedicated to, or used as a place of
religious worship;

(d) "woman" means a fem
ale of any age.

3. Dedication as devadasi to be unlawful

Notwithstanding any custom or law to

contrary, the dedication of a woman as a devadasi, whether before or after the commencement
of this Act and whether she has consented to such dedication or

not, is hereby declared unlawful,
void and to be of no effect and any woman so dedicated shall not thereby be deemed to have
become incapable of entering into a valid marriage.

4. Marriage of devadasi

Notwithstanding any custom or rule of any law to th
e contrary, no
marriage contracted by a woman shall be invalid and no issue of such marriage shall be
considered as illegitimate by reasons only of such woman being a devadasi.

5. Penalty

Any person who, after the commencement of this Act, performs, per
mits, takes part
in, or abets the performance of, any ceremony or act for dedicating a woman as a devadasi or
any ceremony or act connected therewith shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment of
either description for a term which may extend to t
hree years and with fine which may extend to
two thousand rupees: Provided that where the person referred to in this section is the parent or
guardian or a relative of the woman so dedicated, he shall be punishable with imprisonment of
either description w
hich may extend to five years but which shall not be 3less than two years and
with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees but which shall not be less than two
thousand rupees. Explanation.

A person referred to in this section shall include the woma
n in
respect of whom such ceremony or act is performed.

6. Protection of action taken in good faith

No suit, prosecution, or other legal proceedings
shall lie against the Government or any person for anything which is in good faith done or
intended to b
e done under this Act.

7. Power to make rules

(1) The State Government may, after previous publication and by notification in the official
Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the po
wer conferred by sub
section (1) such rules may

(a) for the manner of investigation of offences under this Act;

(b) for custody, care, protection, welfare and rehabilitation of devadasis;

(c) for any other matter which in the opinion of
the State Government has to be prescribed.

(3) Every rule made under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made, before
each house of the State Legislature while it is in session for a total period of thirty days which
may be comprised
in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry
of the sessions immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both
Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the r
ule should
not be made, the rule shall from the date on which the modification or annulment is notified by
the State Government in the official Gazette have effect only in such modified form or be of no
effect, as the case may be ; so however, the modifica
tion, or annulment shall be without
prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.

8. Repeal

The Bombay Devadasis Protection Act, 1934, (Bombay Act 10 of 1934) and the Madras Devadasis
(Prevention of

Dedication) Act, 1947 (Madra
s Act 31 of 1947) are hereby

Provided that section 6 of
the Karnataka General Clauses Act, 1899 (Karnataka Act 3 of 1899) shall be applicable as if the
said enactments are repealed and re
enacted by this Act.

(The above translation of the

1982 i
n English language was published in the Karnataka Gazette
Part IV

(Extraordinary) as No. 429 dated 19
1984 under the authority of the Governor of Karnataka
under clause(3) of Article 348 of the Constitution of India.)

) ACT, 1982

has been amended by
the following Acts, namely.

Amendments (Chronological) Sl.No. Act No. and Year Sections
Amended Remarks 1 1 of 1984

w.e.f. 31.1.1984 Amendments (Section
wise) Sections No and
Year of the Act Remarks

veesher Krishnan
, SAATHII, Hyderabad

(response 2)

In response to the article "Programme Experiences: Sonagachi Project

India", I would like to
raise my concerns in line with Chhabra, R (2002) "Sonagachi: An Ignored Virus,” in Health for the
Millions publ
ished by the Voluntary Health Association of India

pp. 14
19 providing an
alternative view to Sonagachi experiences. According to Chhabra;

The current polices of "condom centric" HIV/AIDS intervention are leading to a "scenario
of open breakdown of so
cial and legal constraints to prostitution and promiscuity,
including among the youth, with reliance on the efficacy of condom usage making it safe

Sex work is debasement of womanhood, and a condom centric approach is "to accept
women as commodities
and pleasure
slaves freely available to fulfill man's base whims".

The claimed successes of the Sonagachi project are debatable. Her contention is that, in
spite of tremendous international support, funding, and the sharing of expertise, the
project has no
t achieved anything substantial in terms of its health objectives. On the
other hand the touted successes have created a schism in the national public policy
debate and led, de facto, to the condoning of promiscuity and the debasement of

there is increasing evidence of legalized prostitution backfiring with increased
prostitution, trafficking and increase in organized crime".

B. K. Bartaria
, Goodrich Management Consultants,


(response 2)

I am sharing


experience of interaction
with the sex worker community spread



to Ratlam

of Western Madhya Pradesh. The areas are

on both sides of the
Highway for about 80 Kilometers. Nearly

about 5000 families living

here are involved in sex

They are generally notified

and called by the State Government as Banchada tribe.

days many more

who have nothing to eat and survive are

compelled to

go into

sex work. They
operate form their temporary shelters on both side of the Highway. The truck drivers prefer to
have sex
with the young

girls. Once they become old they have to come out of the trade

depend on their female child.

By this

vicious cycle

sex work is continuing

as a traditional


asked about the disease caused by HIV, they are aware about it. T
hey even state

that they
can survive with

HIV for about

ten years till they are young.

Once they become old, it is good to
die, for

other wise

also they have nothing to eat.

Also there is no social security system

for them. The males depend upon
the earnings of the females in the family involved in sex work.
HIV, Health, Rights, Literacy, Women, Children, Economic Development are the major issues that
has to be dealt for these sex workers. There is no primary school, Health Centers or even
g water facilities

available in the area.

Some of the

sex workers are literate and

and can

understand the meaningfulness of the smart card or issues like prevention of

and the importance of health. They are mostly non
brothel based sex workers

category of the sex workers are the

traditional ones who are illiterate and since birth are living

a sex work environment somewhat similar to Sonaghachi.

Indrani Sinha,

Sanlaap, Kolkata

While talking about registration of sex workers I wou
ld remind all to remember the following:


registration would demand more so called sex workers and there will be a supply
and minor girls who will be tricked into it leading to sexual abuse, rape and forced

Registration would not do away with
the traffickers for whom this is good business which
gives them money and they are not going to stop trafficking of unaware, poor children
and women in the name of marriage and job offers.

Registration means that some agency would have to have control ove
r it,

like for
example the

police or

the municipal corporation leading to

more corruption and abuse.

Registration is not going to 'will away' the abuse that happens at the brothels in the
hands of the madams and the pimps who survive on the earnings of t
he minors and the
trafficked victims till they learn about the trade and take to it.

Registration is not going to give them shelter when they get old, food when they do not
earn, medical need, education and awareness throughout. The whole business of sex

work is run by the mafia and why should they go away when there is so much money in

Sex work

is not legal in Sweden and traffickers do not take a chance and go there.

Sex work
is legal in Australia and the Netherlands and more trafficking happens
in these
countries. There are research and studies by several organizations on this topic.

To stop or avoid more HIV infection we have to work with all men and women and from
different age group and economic status on their awareness and only registratio
n is not
going to help.

Debasish Chowdhury
, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), Kolkata

(response 1)

In connection with
466 .html

the profile on Sonagachi project mentioned in it, I would like to update members.

At first, Ms. Bharati Dey is the present Program Director; the First Sex worker Program Director
of the project. Secondly, the present secretary
is Ms. Gouri Roy. Mr. Dutta is now acting as a
Senior Technical Advisor and Ms. Swapna Gayen is presently the Program Officer of a Street
based intervention program.

Last year we carried out the fifth Point Prevalence Survey (PPS) in Sonagachi and have fou
0.18% prevalence of syphilis among female sex workers. According to the last PPS, the
percentage of sex workers using condoms consistently with clients is found to be 85.07% and
HIV prevalence among sex workers is 5.17%. Interested members can communica
te with
Program Director at for more details.

I also take this opportunity to request members to visit

and access the
2006 issue to get a comprehensive and up
date picture of Sonagachi Project. It is a

on Sex

workers' valiant efforts to take charge of their lives and their trade.

Dr. Theophilus Gokah
, Cardiff University, UK

You have all raised interesting issues. It is easier for Europe to do what they do but this

easily be tra
nslated into every national template especially in culturally sensitive societies. I am
doubtful about the level of education needed to change people's
. Men know they have
to use condoms in 'unfamiliar territory but this is simply not the case. Wh
at we need is perhaps a
proper conceptual understanding of why some patrons of sex workers insist on not using
condom. Again, this study will have to be contextualized in order to generalize our
understanding. This is a study I am interested in and will li
ke to partner anyone on a regional
basis. The other issue is stigma. How can we reduce stigma if the idea is to get sex workers
registered and screened? Where are our values and to what extent do we want to trade
in these
values. In some

sex wor
kers have been arrested and brought to 'Justice'. This in itself
is a human rights issue. In my doctoral research, I found that sex work is an economic and
environmental issue. In effect, addressing sex work

the oldest



involves a
y of
issues, which

no government in the developing world would like to address up
front. The result being a blame game.

Probably, it is social or cultural values that has placed sex workers and their patrons on the edge
of society. Until these underlying

issues are understood and

we will be spending too
long a time on the subject

just like

applying old bandages on fresh wounds. Whatever is done by
way of research, there is also an issue of translating policy into
practice, which

tries are in default,

as also in some developed countries such as Britain. Until then all that
can be done is public education and hopefully one person will change.

Amrik Singh Kapoor
, New Delhi

The query by Dr. Avnish Jolly on the

pros and cons of Reg
istration of sex workers has brought
out several viewpoints.
That J & K authority

were so rational and matter of fact in a very complex
and sensitive issue even eight decades

ago seems quite impressive. Any re
look at the old law
should be to improve the s
ituation and not to undo a good act with a

of so called
'reforms'. Where one State has come out with the pioneering introduction of smart cards to sex
workers, the other one should not undo the good their predecessors have done. The present sex
scam in J & K seems to have no connection with the law on registration of sex workers. The law
is for regulation and not for anarchy.

What should be prevented

'trafficking' and not the liberty of taking to a profession on one's
own volition. Exploit
ation of any kind should meet with stiff resistance and interests and

of sex workers who are mostly on the receiving end, should be safeguarded in a fool
manner. The tragedy is that wherever some laws do exist they are so ambiguous that th
ey seem
to do no good to whom they have been meant for. Then, the exploitations done by the very
guardians of the law need no repetition since we read it daily.

Examples abound about

their so called 'place' in society or the lack of it. Some friends ha
opined that they are akin to any other worker and have even quoted examples of their
participation in national struggle for Independence. All the views are relevant according to their
own time and place and I have no

difference with these examples. What

we need to view
seriously is that a sex worker caters to a vast variety of people and fulfills a great and
predominant social need

a sort of void, which none else can. HIV or no HIV, a lot of social
health depends upon the sex workers' mental and body h

the relevance of Smart
Card. Registration and smart card go hand in hand and will have a salutary effect on mitigation
of suffering

contribute in prevention and reducing the spread of HIV.

On the ground, a sex worker has an inherent, u
nexpressed scorn for worn out social norms,
caring two hoots for obsolete commandments, rituals or requirements. She does have a deeper,
, craving to attain an expression. Many of us in our ivory towers fail to
comprehend the
ill health

f this limb of our society.

Dr. Avnish Jolly rightly quoted Karnataka
AMSS General Secretary, Bhagyalakshmi as saying that 'sex worker still faces stigma and
discrimination in her day to day life... and Smart Card is a symbol of her self
esteem and an
rance that society does care for them.

There is no need of shedding any crocodile tears,
there is need to do some thing practical not bordering on mere tolerance.

Debasish Chowdhury,

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), Kolkata

(response 2)

I wou
ld like to respond to the appended mail by Mr. Kaveesher Krishnan.

First, Sonagachi project came into being in the year 1992 and international recognition came
three years later in the year 1995 when World Health Organization (WHO), after inspection and
rutiny recognized the project as a model one. So far as my knowledge goes, WHO is an outside
agency and not a part of the Sonagachi Project. I feel that you must agree with me that we
didn't get the recognition as a model project by virtue of the fact that

the project led to the 'open
breakdown of social and legal constraints to prostitution and promiscuity'.

Secondly, since inception the project has faced financial constraints of different kinds. In the year
1999, funding had been discontinued for a stre
tch of nine months. Last year too we didn't have
any funds continuously for six months. In fact this has been the trend for the last decade in
terms of fund availability. The project is grateful to all the intrepid peer educators who at the
grass root leve
l simply ignored all the impediments and delivered their best. There is no reason
to believe that Sonagachi Project runs with the active support from United States and all the
constraints that are applicable to other NGOs and CBOs in India in the context o
f targeted
intervention program are also applicable to the Sonagachi Project like bureaucratic bungling and
societal hatred towards sex work and all types of sex workers be they male, female or

Third, Sonagachi project from the very beginni
ng has been studied, reviewed and evaluated by
different national and international institutions and agencies in different times and the project's
success in terms of health impact has been clearly delineated in those studies and reports. The
reports are
available and accessible on request. Along with these studies one can also see and
compare the findings of sentinel surveillance carried out by NACO in different states in different
years to understand Sonagachi Project's achievement in terms of health imp
act. Fourth, the mail
itself a classic example of standard prejudices against sexuality which has made me feel the need
to reinforce and redesign our ongoing BCC program not only for the key populations but also for
those who are working for or with them
to make our targeted interventions effective in the true

Dr. Nabeel M. K.,

Centre for Tele

Medical Informatics, Academy of Medical Sciences,

Since the smart card has assumed such an importance with this
discussion, which

ed on
registration of sex workers, let me highlight some issues on this.

The 'smarter' of the smart cards as some people claim is not
one, which

carries lesser
information on it.

Now days

due to the threat of misuse

such cards tend to

contain minimum
rmation only.

So, after inserting the card into the machine some authentication like the PIN
we use in ATM; or biometric authentication in advanced systems where thumb pattern or iris
patterns are used is requested. Once authenticated, the data can be retr
ieved from a remote
server which is a distant computer connected to this network

usually by satellite based VSAT or
even optical fiber based Virtual Private Networks. By this way the privacy and security of the data
is much more than a card

that stores a
ll information on it and

which doesn't have any
authentication mechanism. If cards get

anyone can have access to the data with
appropriate card readers. Since we do not have any strict rules on privacy and security of
electronic health

it may not be a big problem now. But in countries where strict rules are
there like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

(HIPAA) in the US, this issue is
of paramount importance.

If a uniform system is in place throughout the country,
the issue of migration could be addressed
as well and the patterns of migration could also be identified. More importantly uniform care
could be provided to all such people in need throughout the country.

such cards should
be issued to all members

of the population for their health care needs and data about high risk

can be included under appropriate sections of the envisaged electronic health

Moreover sex workers

can use the same facilities as that of other population and thereby
their status as sex worker or injecting drug user will be known only to them and their care

There are several projects worldwide involving smart card based health systems of which the one
being implemented in Malaysia is very interesting. A paper
on this was presented at the
International Telemedicine Conference held at Bangalore in March 2005. They call it the

Health Plan (LHP). Its a comprehensive plan where a citizen's health related events are stored in
an electronic health record


the Lifetime Health Record, which can be accessed at hospitals
situated at different locations in the

country using a smart card. Malaysia may be a small nation
with a small population but is also a developing country with

comparable limited resources.
However, they have identified the importance of investing in such a venture which might incur a
lot of expenditure in the beginning

will prove to be cost
effective in the long run.

Aditi Tandon
, The Tribune, Chandigarh

I am in complete agreement with

the views expressed by Bhartendu K.Bartaria. We, as a nation,
have long practiced the culture of silence on all major issues related to sex and sexuality of
people. For almost ages now, the government has been dithering over the issue of formalizing
itution in cities where red light areas exist almost as a norm.

Even the society has not worked on its attitudes and perspectives towards issues that demand
urgent attention and redress. Recognizing sex workers as part of the system and devising ways
assimilate them in the mainstream is just one fragment of the larger issue of understanding

Dr. Amitrajit Saha
, DMSC, Kolkata

(response 4)

I would also request interested colleagues to browse the website:


the official
website of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) the organization that currently runs the
Sonagachi Project

for an overview of the range of activities that DMSC does.

Dr. Amitrajit Saha
, DMSC, Kolkata


Thanks again to Dr. Avnish Jolly for bringing the issue of sex workers’ registration et al on the SE
forum and to Mr. Debasish of DMSC for the detailed sharing of evidence from the Sonagachi

I have been following the discussions closely, and

it appears the central issue is the viewpoint
people adopt regarding sex work and sex workers. The problem is what our attitudes are about
sex work and sex workers. Lucky for us, the forum has seen a fair share of people who do not
take the moralistic vie
wpoint, but are in

of rights of sex workers.

Unfortunately, there
is a moralistic quote

of Chhabra R trying to discredit the success of
Sonagachi Project. I do hope Kaveesher changes his opinion in the light of the comments of Mr
Debasish. I also r
equest Kaveesher earnestly to visit Sonagachi Project see for himself, go
through the evidence and then make critical comments. I'm sure that the sex worker leadership
of Durbar would welcome this opportunity to discuss issues with him.

Another problem i
s that we are so blinkered in our set viewpoints regarding gender, sex,
sexuality and sex work that we do not want to even acknowledge the evidence that we see it!
And it's so easy to criticize the Sonagachi experiment of 14 years.

It is surely not known
many, that at the Sonagachi Project, the project cost per FSW reached is LESS than what is
prescribed in the NACO guidelines and still there is clamour that Sonagachi has 'lots of funds'.

I could go on but wish to wrap up this comment by speaking abo
ut the anti
trafficking activity of
the DMSC and the Sonagachi Project. Since 1999 when the anti
trafficking activity started in
earnest with the establishment of the Self
regulatory boards in sex work locations, the
organization has rescued, rehabilitated

and repatriated more than 350 women, more than 85%
of whom are underage girls. This is documented

the successes, challenges, failures clearly
presented in local, national and international forums, and also posted in the organization’s
website! That's ev
idence for all that the self
regulatory boards of Durbar works!

PS: I hope that the moderator posts this viewpoint

some of my recent postings have not made
an appearance.

Dr. Avnish Jolly
, Chandigarh
(response 7)

Indian sex worker takes to the st
reets to battle AIDS

By Anand Giridharadas International Herald Tribune

ublished: June 6, 2006

MUMBAI, India. With the strut of a baby
kissing politician, Shah strolled down the byways of the
red light district the other day, pausing every few steps to offer a hug and a stern lecture to the
prostitutes. Shah

tall and seren
e at 35, wearing a turquoise sari

began each conversation
gently, with a joke or a compliment. A woman's makeup, she might say, was looking nice.

she would lean in closer, glance around for onlookers, and pull out a pamphlet from the AIDS
ion for which she works part
time. Pointing at explicit photographs, she fired out her
lessons: This is how to use a condom; this is what a vaginal infection looks like. When her shift
ends, Shah, who is being identified only by her common last name to pro
tect her identity,
resumes her night job.

By midnight, if luck is kind, she will be in a cheap hotel somewhere in the byways of Grant Road,
earning a few dollars from a strange man for what she calls the only work she knows. And
because she must survive
, Shah will fail to tell him

even as she insists on a condom

that she is
a prostitute with HIV.

The United Nations reported recently that India had become the HIV/AIDS capital of the world,
its 5.7 million infections surpassing South Africa's 5.5 mi
llion. Some Indian officials have disputed
that number, but the government has acknowledged that the spread of the virus shows no signs
of slowing.

Social Activities Integration, the nongovernmental organization that Shah works for, runs the
ion program in Mumbai. It estimates that there are 37,000 sex workers in this city
alone; the real figure is probably much higher. The organization employs 35 peer educators, with
each responsible for a group of 50 sex workers. Although it has no official
statistics, the group
says condom usage and the frequency of HIV testing have risen dramatically among the women
coached by their peers.

AIDS is often cast as an epidemic of bad choices. But it is also, in the life of Shah, an epidemic of
the choice les
s. Since childhood, she has walked on a path leading, with ever greater inevitability,
to AIDS. She grew up in southern India, dividing her time between school and her job in a
firecracker factory. When she was 13, her grandmother demanded that she marry h
er first
cousin. But he had a fist
sized lump growing out of his back, and Shah's mother was angered by
the thought of her lone daughter wedding an invalid.

Her mother summoned her back to Bombay, and forced upon Shah a marriage more to the
parents' lik
ing. They had been taking care of a 35
old migrant worker who had no parents in
the city, and Shah was beaten by her mother until she agreed to marry him. By age 14, Shah had
given him a daughter. He had begun to stray from the marriage, and one day s
he caught him
with another woman. When she complained, he kicked her out of the house. It was Shah's own
house, and she had been ejected with her mother's approval.

Days later, a woman found her on the platform of a Bombay train station and offered to fin
d her
a job as a maid. She got up and followed her. By evening, she had been sold to a brothel for
10,000 rupees, about $220 today. She told the owner to contact her mother, who would gladly
pay the money to buy her back. But when the brothel sent a messen
ger to Shah's home, her
mother denied having a daughter.

For years, Shah lived in the brothel on a single meal a day: rice and watery lentil soup. She lived
through years of forced embraces, loving no one but believing that they all loved her. "We don't

love," she said. "We take money, do our work, and they leave. We don't love because our hearts
have become too hard. But the men love us."

One of her customers became a lover. He bought her back from the brothel and married her.
When he needed money, t
hough, she was back on the street. She protested, and he stabbed her
in the cheek and back, burned her with kerosene on the belly and legs and shaved her hip
black hair down to the scalp. Shah felt a rare flash of power when she went to the police,
dragging her two children in tow, to display her wounds. The police followed her home. They
dragged her husband out of the house and beat him senseless on the roadside. "I was very
happy," she said, "because he had tortured me a lot."

Two years ago, a t
est revealed she was HIV
positive. "I went crazy," she said. She drank and
took pills, trying to kill herself. Then social workers approached her, looking for prostitutes to
educate their colleagues about AIDS. She agreed, and because she knows their craft
, she has a
knack for communicating with her colleagues. They stop her everywhere she goes for a bit of
gossip or advice. She loves the work, for it has given her the first feelings of respect. Today,
suicide has fallen away from her thoughts. "I have forg
otten everything," she said. She is happily
remarried and has discovered meaning through her teaching. "I had an idea," she said over a
cup of tea, "that what happened to me, I would not let happen to other girls."

Manojit Biswas
, CHARCA, Kanpur

As t
he question of Dr. Avnish Jolly was pertaining to the


of the rule and the ramification
of the Public Prostitutes Registration Rules
1921, if

, before saying any thing we need to
look at, whether the rule benefited the sex workers and if an
y sex workers had ever got herself
registered with the administration till now. Is the rule redundant?

Registration of the sex workers has its own consequences. Mere saying that it will reduce the HIV
infection, stigma and discrimination amongst them i
s not necessarily going to make that happen.
It can also further marginalize them. The need is to change the

of the people about the
whole issue, which is a slow

legislation need not necessarily bring about the change in
mind set. The legi
slation against Child Marriage Restraint Act was enacted in 1929 during the
British Raj and its more than 75 years now, but child marriage is still prevalent. So, legislation is
not always the solution, though it helps.

We have noticed a reversed trend o
f HIV in Tamil Nadu though there is no rule of registration of
Sex Workers; it’s because of successful and sustained implementation of the HIV prevention
program by government, non governmental, international and other agencies. Registration would
not incu
lcate safe practices; it’s the practicing of safe behavior which needs to be internalized by
the sex workers and it can be done without them being getting registered. We need to have
effective focused prevention program with more efforts from all quarters
to halt the spread,
which can also be achieved without the registration of the sex workers.

V. Chaturvedi
, Development Consultants, Hyderabad

I think the insurance companies like ICICI which is extending health insurance to the rural poor
with contrib
ution from GOI of Rs 800 and incumbent paying 200 should be extended to all sex
workers also.

ICICI has now come up with cancer care package.

why not think of HIV care package
for these sex workers? It is really a matter of concern about the
health and I strongly feel that
we should all together recommend to all insurance companies.

Dr. V. Rukmini Rao,

Gramya Resource Center for Women, Secunderabad

(response 2)

Refer Indrani Sinha's comments. I agree with all her comments and would refer
to the debate on
child rights. Do we do away with it or provide safe conditions for child labour? Child Rights
activists are working to eradicate child
. Can we pledge to eradicate sex work and find
dignified well paid work for all women? Should we no
t provide health facilities to be used by all
including sex workers?

Yogananda Sastry Chaturvedi
, Center for Women & Child Development, AP Academy
of Rural Development, Hyderabad

To my

it is the Physical, physiological, psychological, cultural an
d sociological angles we
need to view the problem. Also, the progeny of sex workers bear stigma which does not end with
one generation. Legalization and issuing license and identity cards entitling them to safety nets
some measures to provide a fall back o
n a rainy day is what needs to be concentrated upon. Is it
something like a provident fund to be raised for which their own contribution will be major and
societal or civil responsibility to provide the

Could it be put this way that

arnings be, a specific percentage goes every day to the provident fund

This amount
should be available for use at the shortest notice. Could some self help group activity be thought
of to insulate them from further exploitation? Once safety nets ar
e provided economic
compulsions can be to a major extent be eliminated from the causative factors. Given the

these are some of the ways to cater to security need on a rainy day.

B. K. Bartaria
, Goodrich Management Consultants,


e 3)


a follow
up on my previous

I am sending you some more

information about the
Banchada Community.

KARU, Lachhiram and Shobhram, three brothers from the Banchada tribe and their families, were
tired of escaping for decades. Notified as a c
riminal tribe in Indore, Dhar, Dewas (Senior) and
Sitamau States in (today's) Madhya Pradesh sometime after 1871, their nomadic lifestyle made
things difficult as they were being constantly hounded by the police. With independence in 1947
all they wanted w
as a piece of land to settle down on.

Their dream came true

at Degaon Mali, a quiet village near Mandsaur town with its historical
background. The group of 15 including Geeta, Narangi and Rukman

the eldest Khilawdi
daughters of the brothers

life afresh. The Patel, the late Mohanlal Anjna, not only
allowed them to put up chara
mokan (makeshift huts made of grass) at Kund
Magra, away
from the main village but also gave them "agricultural land".

Within two years of their stay, in Samvat 2
014 (1957), the brothers were sold 12 bighas of land
by Mohanlal, Vijayram and four others. Of this, six bighas were sold to them directly while the
remainder was reportedly through the government. The Bancharas began farming with
enthusiasm only to find t
hat it was barren. Around them lay fertile black cotton soil. But it was
within the main village.

"We did not know that it would be like this. They just took advantage of our ignorance," laments
old Narangi. "Humlog tho buddhu ban gaya (We were fo
oled)". She is the one who can
narrate how the dream was shattered. For she, Geeta and Rukman had to bear the brunt of it.
There were jobs in the village but most were unpaid

a small price to be paid in return for a life
without trouble. Neither was it p
ossible to find a job away from the village as it required
"permission" from the Patel. Never mind even if it meant entering the flesh trade. "Before coming
to Degaon, we were on the move through the princely states in the Malwa region to avoid arrest
harassment," says Narangi, the oldest Khilawdi alive. "Life was difficult as criminal tribes had
to submit their permits periodically. Even the slightest provocation like taking away a grain from
the fields, could mean five years in prison. Running away wa
s the only option as no one was
allowed to settle down. Yet, those days were different. There were the Bhat (bards or
genealogists) among the Gujjars. The Bancharas could seek alms only from them." "Humlog usi
samay ayse khullam khulla dhandha nehi karte t
he (We were not a tribe of prostitutes those
days)", she laments, pointing to a number of girls in the dera (settlement) waiting for customers.

So how are things now? Right from childhood, Narangi has seen one girl out of every 10 families
being trained i
n the performing arts

dancing, singing

and being referred to as a Khilawdi,
seldom married off. (The rest of the girls, or "Bhattekwadis", however, led a normal married live).
, the Khilawdi, accompanied by men playing the dholok, used to e
ntertain the
Gujjars. "It was our duty to fulfil their wishes, if any," she says.

But this was not the complete story. The Khilawdi was often the sacrificial goat whenever the
group got into trouble. Over the years, assistance from the Gujjars dried up. W
ith increasing
mouths to be fed, the only option apart from begging for food was to steal crops. The flesh
was a way out too, introduced as it was 40 years ago. In Narangi's time, in one out of 10
families, the eldest daughter was made a Khilawdis. I
t meant more money as a whole day's work
as a
, during the one
time agricultural season, could earn only 10 paise.

At Degaon
Mali, Geeta, Narangi and Rukman used to entertain people. The Gujjars were still
considered the big brothers. But the "mast
ers" in the village had to be kept in mind as it was
they who had allowed the tribe to settle down. Those were the days when medieval India still
allowed the practice of having concubines and when polygamy was (it still is) in vogue among
the higher class.

Those were also the days when agriculture was not

and the
Banchadas were allowed to settle down as it meant cheap or free
. Everything was smooth
till the Patels and other villagers decided to recover some of the money spent on wages or
men by selling them barren land. The Banchadas learnt their lesson the hard way.

In the Sixties, the tribe acquired 35
40 bighas of fertile government land at Laal
Magra, a few

away from the village. The landed gentry did not take to this kindl
y. "They were
happy till we were at their mercy, working on their farms without any or little wages. The
moment we got our own land they became angry." The Bancharas settled down at Kund
Magra without any patta. Excess land was sown with groundnut, gram

and maize during the
monsoon to yield more for the granary. Earlier, they had had to stop farming a decade ago as
they were attacked. Eventually the village panchayat was successful in acquiring 30 bighas for
distribution of houses under the government's
"Indira Awas Yojna" to those oppressed.

In four decades everything has changed at Degaon Mali. Now it is a semi
urban locality, a 15
minute drive on the busy Sitamau road to Mandsaur the district headquarters. The Banchadas no
longer live in huts, but in
pukka mokans. Narangi has a tube
well in her house. And, Ramsukh,
Karu's grandson, purchased a motor recently. From just three families, in 1955, there are 25
families with a population of around 150. The rules of the community panchayat have been

But lost are identities, culture and language. The flesh
trade and

HIV thrives. (Blood
samples taken from the population of 5,500 in two districts, has found 15
16 per cent of them to
be HIV positive. The results have not been declared).

There is no "cei
ling" on the number of Khilawdis in a family. Girls are made prostitutes by their
parents when they are between 12 and 14 years old. Almost all of them, staying in the same
village, have children, who may be called as illegitimate. The girls have a cliente
le that ranges
from the rural rich to truck drivers. "The birth of a girl is celebrated. The bride price, merely Rs.
1000 20 years ago, is now Rs. 70,000 due the economics of prostitution. This leaves 50 per
cent of the population unmarried. "Hame Laal
ach Aa Giya (We have become greedy)," quips

Bedia, a denotified tribe in Madhya Pradesh, follows a shocking tradition of introducing girls into
prostitution. Efforts by the State administration to stop the trade, which is predominant in 16
cts, have been effective, but there is still a long way to go, says PRATIM RANJAN BOSE.

RAM SANEHI of Morena was a happy man on June 24, 1991. The 65

old Bedia had taken
up a lifelong fight, all alone, with his
community men

to prevent customary int
roduction of their
daughters into prostitution.

the High Court stood by him and pulled up the State
government for ignoring the immoral trade. Sanehi's concern was primarily to save Bedia girls.
The court looked at the problem in totality. The ord
er rekindled hopes of a better life to the
women of at least four other denotified tribes

Banchada, Kanjar, Sansi and Bedia
Nut. The
problem is multi
faceted. First, a large women trafficking network is active in the districts of
Shajapur, Rajgarh, Guna,

Sagar, Sheopur, Morena, Shivpuri, Sagar and Vidisha. The girls are sold
to brothels in the State, the neighbouring State of Uttar Pradesh (especially in Meerut and Agra),
Rajasthan, and the rest of the country. Seventeen thousand Bedias spread in 16 distr
including those mentioned, constitute the mainstay of this traffic. Sanehi estimates that 276
Bedia girls from 185 families of Morena district are sold to brothels in Mumbai and Delhi.
Originally skilled in folk arts of dance and music, rural acrobati
cs and black magic, Bedias just like
the Bancharas adopted the peculiar practice of introducing their eldest daughters into
prostitution. The custom evolved, as a defence mechanism, when they adopted an extremely
nomadic lifestyle to avoid colonial adminis
tration. What made them more vulnerable to

was a near face off from marriage for almost a century. Taking a faster dip in the filth, and unlike
Banchadas who

family as the mainstay of social life, Bedias began celebrating the
ring of almost every virgin by a customer. Marriage within the community is debarred.
May be because of their proximity to the prominent in society, prostitution dens in Uttar Pradesh

the districts of Morena, Shivpuri, Bhind, Sheopur, Guna and those and
around the Chambal

have turned to be the

of this activity.

The State administration, however, preferred to maintain a nonchalant attitude to the whole
issue. Imagine, 1,631 women and 126 children were apprehended at the Women Short Stay

Home (a home for destitute women) in Gwalior between 1971 and 1988. But, not one was
implicated or accused. The arrests were made on flimsy charges of loitering. While "in reality
they had been the subject matter of sexual exploitation." The court, theref
ore, asked the
government to act on both fronts: First, clamping down the trafficking network by enforcing
Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act (SITA) at all vulnerable zones and appointing special police
officers to implement the same. The latter were to be

monitored by a machinery at the "top

Second, designing a scheme to abolish socially sanctioned prostitution on Banchada and Bedia
and rehabilitate the prostitutes apprehended, so that they would not fall in the same trap again.
Initially the enti
re administration was stirred up, followed by some hectic activity. But that is the
end of the story. "Action taken on immoral traffic act is almost nil or negligible," Mr. N.K. Tripathi,
Inspector General (Investigations) of Madhya Pradesh admitted in Feb
ruary 1999. The potential
red light

or trafficking zones are implemented and special officers are appointed in places, but
only on paper. The district was notified and the city superintendent of police (CSP), Neemuch,
was offered the additional charge of s
pecial police officer to implement SITA (without any further
enforcement), long ago. But merely two such arrests were made till late 1998! That too during
the reign of a particular district collector who took interest in a number of social issues. In late
1998, the then district collector of (unified) Mandsaur took up the issue of Banchadas. And, guess
what he had to face first: The man in question was unaware of his additional charge. Under
pressure he had later arrested 11 persons. All were freed by court

due to lack of evidence. To
continue the crack
down, the collector nominated a retired army officer to carry out the job.
Action was taken on nearly 60 prostitutes, but not on the men involved in the game. Mandsaur is
lucky to see some action. In Rajgarh
the district administration had recently proposed
appointment of a special officer as it is a notified zone! Yes, trafficking of Bedia, Kanjar, Sansi,
Nut girls from Rajgarh is an open secret. According to a study by Pachor based NGO, Dr.
Ambedkar Ed
ucation Society, in 1995, 380 girls made way to prostitution from 48 villages in this
backward district.

The fate of the second part of the High Court order was a shade better. "Jabali Yojna"

scheme for abolition of socially sanctioned prostitution
was announced in 1992. The four
Rs. 16 crore, scheme was a well researched one,

an end to this evil, in the long term,
by involving NGOs. The scheme included: Separation of children in 6
12 age group and providing
them primary education in
special residential schools. Imparting higher education or vocational
training to girls in the age group 12
25, in order to wean them from prostitution. Also, ensuring
health care and AIDS awareness among the population at large. The ever optimistic Sanehi
, who
had spent the previous 40 years in rescuing girls from brothels and literally fighting on the streets
with fellow Bedias, now began the second phase of his life

bringing up the future generation

at Abhyuday Ashram, a residential primary and middl
e school (
up to

Standard VIII), at Morena.
Run by his
, Bimukka Jati Avyuday Sangha (an

for the upliftment of
denotified tribes) the school was set up under the first part of "Jabali Yojna". It began with 100
boys and girls at an u
nused government building. Sooner or later, there was a total 14 to 15 such
run schools in different districts.

What happened next is history. The remaining three parts, including the most proactive agendas,
are yet to be implemented. With a combined
grant of Rs. 250 per month per child, evergreen
Sanehi is struggling to run the "Ashram" (as it is popularly known) at Morena, with its mounting
debt. The school presently has 223 students against a government approval of only 150. "I had
to return many,"
Sanehi says in pain. "Else we will go bankrupt." "Sending a girl back home at
that age would mean leaving her alone in the middle of sharks." As on date three or four Jabali
schools are alive, including "Avyuday Ashram". The rest like the one set up by Mah
ila Mandal at
Mandsaur town for Banchadas are still in use but for different purposes. The school was wound
up within an year of operation. The vacated building is now rented for holding marriage


, 1950

Part IX.

Madhya Pradesh

1. Audhelia

2. Bagri, Bagdi

, Bahana

4. Balahi, Balai

5. Banchada

Afroja Parvin
, Nari Unnayan Shakti (Women's Power for Development), Bangladesh

Nari Unnayan Shakti

(Women's Power for Development)

led national NGO is offering
some service. Please refer the stakeholders to avail the services.

1. Women's Hostel (with reasonable cost sharing at Bonosree, Rampura, Dhaka,),

2. Day Care Center (with reasonable
cost sharing at Bonosree, Rampura, Dhaka,),

3. Legal aid support for trafficked, sexual abused, the victim of


violence and HIV+
women and children

who are stigmatized. (Free of cost)

4. Shelter Home support for trafficked, sexual abused, the victi
m of


violence and HIV+
women and children who are stigmatized (Free of cost).

Please circulate this massage to your colleagues, relatives and neighbors. Some one can be
benefited through you.

Thanking you for your cooperation in advance

Many th
anks to all who contributed to this query!

If you have further information to share on this topic, please send it to Solution Exchange for
the AIDS Community in India at


with the subject heading


Registration for Sex Workers, from Chandigarh (Experiences).


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