A little before she took to the roads for the Chennai pride march, Mahalakshmi S*, a sex worker from Karnataka, sat in rapt attention as Shyamala Nataraj of South India AIDS Action Programme (SIAAPINDIA), read out a set of recommendations that activists believe could pioneer powerful change for the community. The recommendations have been made by a panel formed under the order of the Supreme Court in 2011. At the solidarity meet organised earlier this month by SIAAPINDIA — one of the members of the panel that framed these recommendations — close to 60 women and LGBT sex workers from across the country gathered to discuss the horrors they face on a day-to-day basis and how the recommendations would help in alleviating their predicaments.
TIMES OF INDIA
Sex work is a profession that has prevailed for ages, and by law it is not illegal. And yet, it is also being shunned by the same society that created it and needs it, with sex workers being treated abhorrently and inhumanely in many places. “People think sex workers form only a small portion of the population. In reality, there are over 6,300 sex workers in Chennai, 90,000 in Tamil Nadu and over 45 lakh to 50 lakh in India alone,” says AJ Hariharan, founder secretary, Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), an organisation working since 1994 to promote well-being of sex workers.