Sex workers in Bengaluru came together on March 9, 2021 to protest against the police violence against them. They protested in front of the Karnataka State Commission for Women and submitted a memorandum to the chairperson. In an open letter that the sex workers released, they noted ‘while on one hand we have glorified photo ops of celebrating women by the government on the other hand sex workers are brutally beaten up on the streets of Bengaluru everyday by the police.
The letter explained that there is a need to bust the myth that, ‘sex work is criminal.’ It said, ‘sex work is not criminal but criminalisation of sex workers continues.’ Every woman has a right to choose livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution and women in sex work are workers as any other workers. According to the Supreme Court sex workers are not criminals, but are victims of economic necessity and circumstances. The Karnataka police department in 2004 had issued circulars, prohibiting violence against sex workers.
Speaking at the protest Githa, secretary of Sadhana Mahila Sangha noted that the police brutality on the streets in public seems to suggest that the police does not consider women working as sex workers as women.
The open letter observed that in past two years, physical and mental violence against sex workers by the police and especially against the women in street sex work in different ares of Bengaluru city has been increasing. Social workers working with sex workers have also been targeted, assaulted with extreme police violence and insulted in public. No complaint is registered against the police officials and the violence continues with impunity.
Sex workers protesting asked:
- Are sex workers not women?
- Are sex workers not human beings?
- When sex work is not illegal, why are the sex workers assaulted by the police everyday?
- Do sex workers not have a right to earn a livelihood?
- If the state does not address the social and economic issues that compel women to take up sex work, then what right does it have to deny sex workers their livelihood?