Call to Decriminalize Sex Work and Promote Rights of Transgenders: Final Day of Gender Mela
New Delhi, Feb 13, 2016: The All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) called for decriminalizing of sex work and recognition of labour rights for sex workers at the Gender Mela.
Seema, who is part of a union of sex worker’s in Sonagacchhi area of West Bengal, and Kusum a AINSW leader, spoke on unionising the sex workers so that they can withstand exploitation by the police and officials and advocate for removal of discriminatory policies and laws. “The sex workers’ union is part of the country’s labour rights movement, and we ask that our work be decriminalized and we be given the same rights as any other worker,” exhorted Seema.
The AINSW demand was supported by the transgender groups present. They insisted that rights of transgenders must be acknowledged too including remedial steps for the extreme violence they faced.
Maya, who said she considers herself not a transgender but a Hijra as she accepts and follows all the practices of the community, said Hijras are often forced to behave in a certain way because of the discrimination and ridicule they face from society which does not allow them to get educated, shuns them when they use public transport like the Delhi metro, face extreme violence and sexual assault and shuts the doors of ‘respectable’ employment for them. “The NALSA judgement is incomplete as it only gave recognition to the third gender but did not make any effort to give them services and facilities to improve their lives and mainstream them even almost two years down the line. So, little has changed on the ground for us,” said Maya, pointing out there were Nari Niketans set up by the government for women who are victims of violence but there was no acknowledgement of the sexual and other forms of violence faced by transgenders too who have nowhere to go when they are in need.
Men and women students participated in equal measure in questioning experts and activists on the final day on Saturday of the three day Gender Mela organized by Miranda House on its campus in collaboration with OBR and MenEngage Delhi.
“Climate change impacts women, particularly poor, marginalized women the most, affecting their livelihoods, nutrition, health, and even the amount of violence they have to face. Yet, policies and laws dealing with climate change in various sectors are made by a male dominated bureaucracy and law makers who don’t see the need to integrate the situation of women into agricultural or environmental policies,” said Aditi Kapoor of Alternative Futures who spoke on the gendered impact of climate change like untimely rainfall, extreme temperatures, deforestation, drought or floods, drop in agricultural production and loss of species, leading to migration and loss of livelihoods, among other things. She was speaking at a session on Sustainable Development, Gender and Climate Change.
Experts like Prof Sanghamitra Acharya from JNU, Sehjo Singh of Action Aid and Tripti Tandon from Lawyers Collective brought out the need for a deeperunderstanding of the intersection of Dalit issues with gender and environment as well as a change in laws projecting women particularly sex workers as ‘victims’ and thereby depriving them of rights that other workers enjoyed.
A diversity of sexual identities and opinions capped the colorful three-day Gender Mela that provided a space for male and female students to grapple with issues of social norms and gender in a conducive environment.