Ground Report | New Delhi: Sex workers fight for home; The sealing of the Ganga Jamuna red light area in Nagpur last week has triggered protests by sex work organizations and civic groups. Residents, more than 1,200 sex workers, note that the closure hampers their business and violates fundamental rights.
This red light area is three centuries old. It was barricaded last week over concerns of “illicit flesh trade”. The concern voiced by the local people is the trafficking of minor girls, and soliciting in public places is also a violation of the law. “Also, we have seen a huge rush of customers in the area after the second Covid wave. Due to all this it was decided to lock down the area,” Nagpur Police Commissioner told The Indian Express.
Sex workers fight for home
The police closed the area citing the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and the government welfare board is in favor of resettling the workers from the district. Police also passed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which prohibited gatherings of four or more people on August 12, but activists noted that the order was passed after mobility was restricted. The anti-human trafficking organization National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) wrote in a petition, “No announcement was made, nor was there any indication that such a strict restriction on mobility was intended.”
According to a report by the National Network of Sex Workers, around noon on August 11, 2021, barricades were erected in the Ganga-Jamuna area of Nagpur city, immediately affecting the lives and livelihoods of around 1,200-1,500 sex workers living and working there. No announcement was made, nor was there any indication that such a strict restriction of mobility was intended.
On 13 August, a police order dated 12 August issued by the Lakadganj police station, imposing Section 144 CrPC, prohibiting the assembly of four or more persons, from 11 August to 9 September 2021, was passed in the area. There is no valid reason to invoke powers based on alleged complaints by citizens about “trafficking sex trafficking”. There is no evidence that “ordinary citizens” face any insecurity or risk while passing through the area, nor that public peace is at risk.
Sex worker rights in international and national law
The emerging expression and direction given to sex worker rights in international and national law and policy is clear and progressive. The following is recognized in India and globally through the advice of central and state governments, court decisions, government and court-appointed committees, international treaty bodies, comments and recommendations, panels, United Nations agencies.
The NNSW said in a petition, “…this order appears to have been issued to cover up the dictatorial orders of siege of the area, putting all sex workers with their children and families in an illegal prison “
Siege of the entire area in the name of stopping illegal activities is a violation of the rights of the residents by restricting their access to food and medicines.
77% of women in study returned to sex work
“Those demanding closure of brothels live in big bungalows and don’t have to worry about two meals a day. Here, such a situation comes in front of these women and their children that they have nothing to eat. Why should they be pushed into starvation?” Jwala Dhote, chairman of the Vidarbha Other Redressal Committee, told The Indian Express.
Research “Raids” released in 2018 has highlighted the ineffectiveness of raid and rescue tactics as well as human rights violations. Despite facing brutal raids and rescue operations, 77 percent of the women in the study returned to sex work.
“Over the years, sex workers have exposed the continued effort by abolitionists to raid and free them and imprison them in rescue and rehabilitation homes against their will. These organizations have used existing anti-trafficking laws to imprison adult women in prolonged sexual acts in rescue homes,” noted NNSW.