“Are we not women Madam Minister?”

Pic Credit: NNSW

Sex workers across the country welcomed the timely intervention of the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha  Sumitra Mahajan, to uphold the right of sex workers to approach the Ministry of Women and Child to discuss a proposed legislation that will have a tremendously adverse impact on their lives.

The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) condemned the statement of Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Department on July 26, for making disparaging remarks about sex workers in the Parliament during a discussion on the Trafficking Bill 2018.

She stated during the response to the discussions in Lok Sabha, “I am going to be wicked. There are two types of representatives who came to me. One was the Victims of Trafficking and the other was sex workers. Dr. Tharoor accompanied the representatives of sex workers.”

The Hon Speaker immediately and forcefully stepped in to insist that sex workers had a legitimate appointment with the Minister, and that is not unparliamentary. The NNSW, representing sex workers across the country acknowledges the consistent commitment of Dr. Shashi Tharoor to highlight the issues of this marginalized community.

For the past two years since the first draft of the Bill was posted on the website, NNSW has attempted to highlight its grievances and specific concerns with the Bill. The concerns of over 250 activists, lawyers and civil society organizations on the proposed Bill, along with the list of signatories to the Coalition 260 were personally handed over to the Minister. However, as the Minister charged with respecting and upholding the dignity of all women in India, including women who in sex work; snide and improper remarks in Parliament, unfortunately, reemphasised the stigma with which society views sex workers. Sex workers are not a source of entertainment or snide laughter for MPs, but workers who earn so that their families have a chance at an equitable life, like all citizens of this country.

“Do we not have the right to be heard by Ministers, Governments, and Members of Parliament? Are we according to you so reprehensible that it is ok to make us the butt of your humor at the cost of dignity? Are we not citizens of India entitled to dignity? Are we not women Madam Minister?” asks the NNSW.

The joint statement released was signed by Jwala Shakti Samuh (JSS), Jharkhand Karnataka Sex Workers Union (KSWU), Karnataka Kerala Network of Sex Workers (KNSW), Kerala Me and My World, Andhra Pradesh Mitra, Maharashtra Muskan, Maharashtra Nirangal Federation, Tamil Nadu Saheli Sangh, Pune, Maharashtra Stree Sanghatan, Chota Udaipur Uttara Karnataka Mahila Okkuta (UKMO), Karnataka Vadamalar Federation, Tamil Nadu Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), Maharashtra Kutch Mahila Vikas Sanstha (KMVS), Gujarat Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM), Maharashtra Samraksha, Karnataka Sangama, Karnataka South India AIDS Action Project (SIAAP), Tamil Nadu Srijan Foundation (SRIJAN), Jharkhand Vikalp, Gujarat Women’s Initiatives (WINS), Andhra Pradesh.