Kolkata leading the way for Sex Workers' freedom

Over 550 representatives of sex workers' collectives from across the world have arrived for the first-ever Global Hub of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) co-hosted by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW). Dr Samarajit Jana, Chair of this Sex Workers' global hub of AIDS 2012, said: "the time has come to deliberate the many violations and privations the sex workers community is facing in different parts of the world. This Conference which has been, for the last 25 years, a three-way dialogue between the scientists/planners, the people living with HIV and the most at risk communities has been thwarted for the first time by the US government."

Andrew Hunter, the President of NSWP, said, “with the US now leading the fight for Lesbian, Gay and transgender equality we are extremely disappointed that they refuse to revise their restrictions on sex workers and refuse to recognize that we are human beings with basic rights.”

Ruth Morgan Thomas, the Global Coordinator of NSWP said “it is essential that sex workers be able to self organize in order to stop the AIDS epidemic and yet again the US Government prohibits funds being given to sex worker organizations, the most effective HIV prevention strategy, through the anti-prostitution pledge included in all donor contracts.”

Affirming this, M Bhagyalakshmi, president of the All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) stated that “the 5-day Global Hub will deliberate on the “Seven Freedoms” –the right to move, work, access to healthcare, participate, organize, be free of violence and discrimination - without which the community of sex workers cannot reduce their vulnerability to HIV.”

“The Sex Workers will strive to release the Kolkata Declaration which will be a platform that enables us to reclaim the rights that are due to us,” she added

Rituu B Nanda