Nagpur: Sex Workers Demand to Unseal Ganga-Jamuna Area, Don’t Want ‘Rehabilitation’ or ‘Rescuing’ They Say

The workers also said that the police are working in cahoots with contractors who have been eying the land in the area give its prime location for a long time. 

sex workers

On August 11, the Nagpur police put a large number of barricades completely sealing the Ganga-Jamuna area. The police also imposed section 144 of the CrPC on August 11 and barred the entry of outsiders to several lanes in the area. The police action without any prior notice or reason has drastically affected the livelihood practices of over a thousand sex workers who have been living and working for decades in the area.

Furthermore, over 100 police personnel have been deployed in the area at all times, The New Indian Express reported.

Sex workers in India are one of the groups that are consistently at the receiving end of social stigma and state-sponsored police brutality. All this when the profession is not illegal in India and provides a source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of marginalised people.

Brothel areas are repeatedly raided and their workers are harassed by the police which continues to conflate sex trafficking with sex work.

A petition by the National Network of Sex Workers, India (NNSW) demanding ‘Unseal Ganga Jamuna’ has been put online and signed by more than 2700 people and organisations.

NNSW was born out of the 1st National Conference of Sex Workers in India in 1997. It has over 150,000 Sex Workers from 63 organisations in 8 states of India.

“On 11 August 2021, around midday, barricades came up in the Ganga-Jamuna area of Nagpur city, immediately affecting the lives and livelihoods of about 1,200-1,500 sex workers residing and working there. No announcement was made, nor was there any hint that such a dire restriction of mobility was intended. On 13 August, a police order dated 12 August issued by the Lakadganj Police Station, was pasted in the locality, invoking Section 144 Cr Pc prohibiting the assembly of four or more persons, from 11 August to 9 September 2021,” the petition noted.

“The workers can go out and come back to the area but given the fact that policemen and police vans in large numbers are posted near all the barricades at various entering points, not even a single customer has visited in last 4-5 days,” Ayeesha, an activist associated with NNSW told Gauri Lankesh News.

Policemen have been relentlessly harassing the women workers by coming up with new rules and demands. Some are asking the sex workers to show their AADHAR cards later on they said that the cards need to be submitted to the police station, she added.

The police have alleged that the their action is a reaction to complaints of “illegal sex trade” and problems faced by “ordinary citizens”.

However, the petition by the Sex Work Collectives explains that “there is no valid reason for invoking the powers based on alleged complaints by citizens about “illegal sex trade”. Neither is there any evidence that “ordinary citizens” are facing any insecurity or risks while traversing this area nor that public peace is being threatened.”

On August 23, sex workers started the ‘No Minor’ campaign during which included a signature campaign where all the workers and the owners of their houses became signatories. The workers explained that only adults reside and work in the area.

Workers went around campaigning to voice their support against the inclusion of minors in sex work. They went door to door in the area and also put up posters about the same.

sex workers
Image: NNSW

As part of their campaign workers also submitted a memorandum to the Lakadganj police station reiterating that the sex workers of the Ganga-Jamuna locality are against the employment of minors in sex work and that they don’t indulge in any such practice.

sex workers
Image: NNSW

Taking to Gauri Lankesh News, Ayeesha said that “these workers have been living in the area since the time of British Raj, the surroundings houses mostly owned by middle-class families came to exist much later.”

The middle-class families in the area have been mobilising for the sex workers to be forcibly removed on baseless allegations of illegal activities. Furthermore, the workers living explained that there existed no immediate reason that justified the police action.

They have also said that the police are working in cahoots with local contractors who have been eying the land in the area for a long time and want the workers to be displaced from the area.

Earlier on August 22, sex workers from all across Maharashtra visited the Ganga Jamuna area to extend their solidarity to the workers in the Ganga-Jamuna area and protested against the illegal closure of their homes.

The workers in the area have said that the police action is an effort to put the workers and their children in ‘illegal prisons.’

Previously in a victory for the movement, the NHRC recognised sex workers as informal workers saying “Sex workers may be recognised as informal workers and be registered so that they are able to get worker benefits.” However, the recognition has been sidelined by the Nagpur police, the workers said.

The workers in the Ganga-Jamuna area have said that they don’t want rehabilitation or rescuing and demanded to be recognised as consenting adult working women.

sex workers
Image: NNSW

“Police are forcing feeding the narrative of rehabilitation but the sex workers communities are opposing,” Ayeesha said.

Also read: Are sex workers not human beings? Ask Sex Workers in Bengaluru?

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May 2024
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