However the war of words has already spilled out on the street after the National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam advocated legalising sex work to regulate trade and ensure better living conditions for women engaged in commercial sex work. Legalizing the trade, she said, would bring down trafficking in women and lower the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. While sex workers’ unions have expressed their support for this view citing it as a way forward in decriminalizing the trade, women rights activists have opposed it vehemently. They contend that the move will only push up trade and encourage incidence of trafficking.
Sex workers unions—estimated to be 3 million strong—say that this is the only way forward for the community that has long been marginalized. This was also the only way to break the unholy nexus between police-trafficker-pimp in exploiting the poor.
Supreme Court lawyer and Shakti Vahini president Ravi Kant had opposed the move describing trafficking and sexual slavery as the worst form of human rights violation. “No women joins this inhuman trade out of choice. More then 95% of the women have been trafficked and forced into the sex trade,” he said.
Women’s rights organizations including All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said there was need for more consultations. “Special steps must be taken to ensure that their basic human rights are safeguarded and better livelihood options for women should be provided as a means of preventing their entry into prostitution,” Sudha Sundararaman from AIDWA said.