BENGALURU: Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union members on Saturday protested at Town Hall demanding the recommendations of Dr Jayamala Ramachandra committee to be made public.
Ramachandra is an actor-turned-politician, currently a member of the legislative council from the Congress party. She headed a 16-member committee that was set up in May 2015 to study the conditions of sex workers in the state. The union alleged that over 17,000 sex workers were interviewed through a 169-question questionnaire that asked irrelevant questions and could also jeopardise their security.
Nisha Gulur, treasurer of the union said,“We gave our phone numbers, addresses and personal details like HIV status in the questionnaire. We did not participate in the survey voluntarily. Some of us were spoken to over the phone. They asked questions like whether we introduced others to sex work. What is the guarantee that this information won’t be used against us? What if the police barge into our houses and arrest us?”
The report prepared by the committee is titled Laingika Daurjanyakke Olagaada Samudaaya Mahileyara Sthithigathi Adhyayana (Status Report of Women Who Have Encountered Sexual Violence). The workers’ concerns about the questionnaire and the way it was administered to them have been documented in a report titled “A Critique of the Study Undertaken by the Government, through its Appointed Committee on Sex Workers.” This was submitted to Ramachandra on December 24 last year. Bhagya, a protesting sex worker told Express, “The Women and Child Development department officials will conduct this survey, we were told. Why does the department want to know the nature of my clientele? Whether they are college students or not? How many clients I entertain in a day and how much I earn? How are these questions in our interest?”
The 14-page critique, a copy of which is with Express states,“...the Committee’s assumption that all those engaging in sex work are victims of sexual violence becomes explicit. This is a flawed and distorted understanding of the discourse around sex work. More importantly, it undermines and takes away the agency of sex workers. This premise itself is a serious violation.”
The sex workers also alleged that there are no questions that assess their access to safe drinking water, food, housing, land, sanitation,electricity, health, child care and education that would have been valuable for the government’s policy for sex workers. They allege that the data collected is unusable for drawing any inferences or conclusions for the purpose of formulating policies and programmes for the welfare of the sex workers.