In a first of its kind move, the ministry of women and child in state launched the policy on women with a dedicated chapter on issues faced by sex workers. The policy which was launched by chief minister PrithvirajChavan last week speaks of better access to health, education and other development programmes for women.
“Besides looking at various concerns that face women, it is for the first time that the policy has also considered issues and opinions of those women who are the most marginalised and suffer exclusion,” Chavan had said while addressing a gathering in Pune to launch the policy.
Women and child minister Varsha Gaikwad had included representatives from the sex workers and transgender communities in the drafting committee of the women’s Policy. She had also asked the committee members to give recommendations. Representatives from the sex workers organisations from Pune, Kolhapur, Parbhani, Sangli and Mumbai had drafted the response on the concerns of sex workers. Vaishya Anyaya Mukti Parishad, Varangana Sakhi Sanghatan, SETU and Aastha Pariwar were some of the sex workers groups that were part of the committee. The process of getting the committee members together and drafting the recommendations of sex workers was facilitated by the Centre for Advocacy and Research while Laxmi Tripathi, transgender rights activist worked out the recommendations about the transgender community.
Annu Swamy, member of the drafting committee on sex workers and working with Aastha Parivar, a sex workers collective, said, “This is a historical step taken by the government. We still need a larger political and societal will to translate all commitments into reality.”
To ensure that children of sex workers and those form the transgender community get access to education in a stigma free environment, the policy firstly relaxes the requirement of documents necessary for school admissions and then lays down gender and community sensitization of teachers, school and college authorities and provision of scholarships. Nutrition support and shelter homes for children of sex workers are another set of important recommendations that the policy mentions.
The policy, while recognising and respecting the rights of sex workers and transgenders during raids and rescue operations and calls for a decriminalization of sex work. It also talks of legal support for marginalised women. Protection from violence and exploitation, access to property rights, housing rights and relaxing norms of verification for accessing various welfare schemes and programmes, etc were mentioned in the policy document.
Sumitra Deb Roy