In October we reported on The National Human Rights Commission, India who had issued an advisory recognising sex workers as informal workers. The 11-page advisory titled 'Human Rights Advisory on rights of Women in Context of COVID-19' listed recommendations for sex workers under the women at work section. The recommendations in the advisory were met with approval from the sex worker community, with the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) describing the inclusion in the advisory as “the most critical victory for sex workers”.
On Wednesday 11th November, The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) backtracked on their previous recommendations, saying that women in “prostitution” should not be registered as workers or guaranteed financial aid from the government amid the fallout of COVID-19. In their new statement, NHRC said sex workers could not be registered officially or categorised as informal workers. The rights watchdog said sex workers should instead be given help on “humanitarian grounds” during the pandemic.
Reporting on the u-turn, Reuters spoke with NSWP member organisation Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee.
“If they are not defined as workers, it is a failure to recognise the work they do to earn their livelihood and feed their families,” said Smarajit Jana, founder of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a collective of sex workers in Kolkata.
“This is a setback ... they will not be recognised as full-fledged citizens of the country, having full access to various citizenship documents and right to social and development schemes,” added Jana, whose group represents 65,000 sex workers.