Indian Sex Workers Fight for Rights
January 7, 2003
At least 200 sex workers in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have formed Indra Female Peer Educators Collective (EFPEC), an organization to seek recognition and to protect their rights. Unlike some states in India, the sex trade is illegal in Tamil Nadu, punishable with imprisonment and a fine. EFPEC President Shanthi said the group's primary aim is to prevent other women and children from being sucked into prostitution. If an EFPEC member is arrested, the group will provide legal help, arrange for their bail, and look after their children while they are in police custody, one member said. The nongovernmental charity will also provide education to the children of sex workers.Adapted from:
The number of HIV-infected people in Tamil Nadu is said to be one of the highest among India's states. EFPEC will work to promote health awareness among sex workers and initiate an AIDS prevention program by promoting the use of condoms and organizing frequent health checks. EFPEC will also launch a rehabilitation program to provide vocational training and alternative employment for sex workers. One of the biggest problems it faces is finding shelter for those who want to move out of the sex trade. EFPEC has appealed to the government to provide housing facilities.
This is not the first attempt to solve the problems of sex workers in India. In the last few years, sex workers in many parts of India have successfully campaigned to highlight their plight. In March 2001, the Calcutta sex workers' union, Durbar Mahila Sammanoy Samity, organized a meeting of several thousand sex workers from India and other South Asian countries to discuss the increasing problem of trafficking of vulnerable women. The meeting agreed to set up a network to protect women targeted by trafficking gangs.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.