Sex workers in India launch a national campaign calling for decriminalisation

Sex workers gathered from across India in New Delhi last week, for a two-day meeting on the 'protection of dignity and rights of sex workers' organised by the All Indian Network of Sex Workers, as a prelude to the launch of national campaign calling for decriminalisation.

Smarajit Jana, an advisor of AINSW, said, "Our basic demand is to decriminalise sex work, and amend the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act. Adults engaged in sex work have the right to earn and live through the exchange of sexual services. They have to be considered as any other workers and should be included in the work schedule by the Ministry of Labour. This is one of the major demands of this organisation".

Bharati Dey, president of AINSW, said, "Today and tomorrow the members of the AINSW will sit with policy makers which include members of Parliament, ministers, social policy makers, representatives from the planning commission to change or to improve present policy environment in the country."

MP Avijit Mukherjee said, "There is no doubt that anybody who gives a service is a worker and every worker has the right to demand for their rights. But unfortunately in our society sex is a taboo. Laws has to be enacted for sex workers and whatever is needed for me to do as a law maker I will help you."

Sex worker-led organisations in India are hugely active in running HIV prevention and treatment services, protecting sex workers from abuse within the industry, and running a bank for sex workers. Last year, sex worker-led organisations from across the world held a shadow International AIDS Conference in Kolkata, to protest sex workers' exclusion from the Washington AIDS conference.

You can read more coverage of the AINSW campaign here (Biykana News) here (Zee News) and here (The Times of India).