New year, new dawn: Suitable India for sex workers, LGBT community is all they ask for

Job security, an inclusive environment, dignity of labour and strengthening of women’s rights — stepping into the new decade, transpersons and sex workers from the state talk to Naaz Ghani

Published: 01st January 2020 06:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd January 2020 01:29 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

I would like to see India grant marital and adoption rights to same-sex couples. Only a few people came out and expressed who they are after section 377 was introduced. We need our lawmakers to consider legalising same-sex marriage and adoption for society to also accept our presence. In society, when something is illegal, people think it’s wrong, but legality is different from morality, right? People would want to raise a child regardless of gender or marital preferences — we should be granted that right. Unfortunately, media and news channels have projected sexuality and LGBT communities as something that was a choice...that ’s not true. Institutions must also include LGBTQA clubs to give the community a space to voice their concerns and help them accept themselves.

—Sridhar, social worker, researcher and gay person

Until now, our community has been suffering a lot in terms of issues with the police, finding houses and other social issues. So far we have not got any recognition for what we are. In 2020, we are looking for our work to be recognised. We should be able to do our work without fear. Many of us look at this as a means for livelihood and a way of getting money. Just as people go for other work, we go for this work. We have been a part of a large number of protests but at this time all that we are protesting for is a framework where we can work freely. We also want to be able to work and earn money to support our families, without being pulled up by the police.

—Roja (name changed), sex worker, Theni

Violence against women should stop. They should be given equal rights. Women should be able to confidently come out in public spaces. Particularly for us, women who are also into sex work, we face major violence from the police. This also should change this year. As far as violence against women is concerned, there must be stricter law enforcement in place. Culprits just go to prison and then are released a few days later. I feel that if somebody is committing serious sexual crimes against a woman or a girl, they should be subjected to capital punishment.

—Prema, sex worker, Marthandam, Kanyakumari district

If we go to the police, they ridicule us. They say that it is better to die than to do sex work. It is difficult for us to look for houses. If goons create trouble for us, we can’t even go to the police. Right now, we have to hide the work we are doing from everyone in society. We always live in fear that if people come to know we are into sex work, we may be discriminated against. We may even be pushed to an extreme situation that may result in our death. We should be allowed to openly do our profession. The government must force the police to stop harassing us. I look forward to a country where we can live freely.

—Latha, sex worker, Theni

CHENNAI: As observed by the learned judges of the Honorable High Court of Delhi in a 2009 judgement, ‘if there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be the underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’’. Unfortunately, this is under serious threat today. The way forward would be to challenge the narrative of one nation, one language, one religion that has been fabricated by our politicians. We need to instead build a culture of inclusion in which diversity is accepted and celebrated. I would also like to see greater power given to state and local governments.

—Delfina, social worker and transgender person

I want to feel accepted. We need acceptance so that society sees us as any other woman. A person doing any other profession is first seen as a man or a woman doing that profession, I also want to be considered as a human being with a profession. I want India to be safer for women. Sexual harassment and violence of women has to stop. If you accept us for our profession, it may help society stop the injustices against women. Considering the welfare of all women, we want India to accept women who are doing sex work voluntarily so that the safety and rights of all women can be ensured.

—Geetha, sex worker, Madurai

India should protect its good democratic traditions. I speak not only for my community of sex workers but all communities at large when I say that the current Citizenship Amendment Act is a major concern. The ideal of our country has been to not discriminate in terms of caste or religion. However, with the CAA, there is discrimination in those sectors. Among sex workers, there are many Muslims. The Act singles out Muslims which affects us as a community as well. As for the NRC, many of us do not have Aadhar or voter ID cards to prove our citizenship. I would like to see both the CAA and NRC revoked in the next year. Sex work is work. It is not a crime. I want our society to remain united and support sex workers’ right to self-determination. I am voluntarily doing sex work, I am not trafficked into it. We want the government to recognise this and not force us into rehabilitation. In the past, there has been some legal recognition for the LGBT communities. I would like to see that kind of recognition for sex workers as well.

—Gokila M, sex worker, Madurai

In the past year, I’ve seen India regress, not progress at all. It has gone backwards. As a person from a minority community, it feels a bit threatening right now. I can see the increase in hate crimes-speech in minority groups. I think that’s what has to change. Everyone must be given the right to speech. The government must improve its criteria for scholarships. Socially, India must focus on addressing topics like disability and mental health. More schools must be set up to teach children suffering from mental and physical disabilities. These are issues that have only been touched upon lightly and should be given more attention in the next year.

—Krithik Shiva, student, visually impaired trans-male

Even though we are with family, people see us differently. People’s perception is different, even our own family doesn’t see us in a good way. My wish for this year is that the people should start treating us with the same perspective as they see any other woman. For society at large, our presence is good. If a customer comes with any intention, we know how to handle the situation. Therefore, other women are protected against sexual violence. I want a place where there is no police violence and brutality against my profession. Where we are free to practice our profession just like others. For this year, I want to make sure that we have a place to practice our profession without being troubled. We don’t trouble anyone. Even our customers are happy with our work and they come back. There is a need for our profession. The government should recognise it and stop trying to eradicate it.

—Rosey, sex worker, Chennai

India Matters


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