The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

We are sex workers; Don’t rob us of our identity!

Photo: DNA

If you are serious about supporting us, Decriminalise Sexwork!!

We, sex workers from across India unequivocally condemn the statement of the Women and Child Development Minister of Karnataka, Ms. Jayamala. She is reported to have instructed the Women and Child Development department officials to call sex workers “Oppressed Women”.

This statement was reported in various newspapers on 12th of June, 2018:

This pushes back our struggle for the rights of sex workers by decades; for dignity and rights rather than pity and victimhood.

We have come together and collectivised in Karnataka well as other parts of India for over two decades and have articulated our concerns and demands. We have worked to decrease violence against us (from police, goondas, general public as well as intimate partners and family members), as well as countered social intolerance. We have been the backbone of the HIV prevention work in the country. The rights of sex workers as citizens of India have been recognised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, the panel appointed by the Supreme Court and by numerous international commissions.

We assert that sex work is dignified work and the comments of the minister denigrate and make invisible our agency and right to self-identification. It disregards and dismisses our decades-long struggle for dignity, safety, and justice. Government agencies for long have conflated trafficking with sex work and this moral policing has prevented the freedom of speech and expression of sex workers. This approach has led to deepening the violence we face and has made it difficult for us to organise and demand our rights from the State.

We are aware of the many forms of exploitation and oppression that exist not only in sex work but also in a range of occupations, and our fight is to change this. Reducing all adult persons voluntarily employed in sex work to the status of “oppressed women” is unacceptable.

We have time and again stressed that many women, men and transgender persons voluntary engage in sex work and would request NGOs, governmental agencies, media and others to respect that. Many NGOs and government agencies are using the ‘raid-and-rescue’ and ‘rehabilitation’ strategy that causes immense harm to our communities. Under these circumstances branding us as merely “oppressed women” will only make matters worse.

On behalf of all the undersigned groups, the Karnataka Sex Workers Union, Uttara Karnataka Mahila Okkoota, National Network of Sex Workers strongly condemns minister Ms. Jayamala’s comments and demand that she withdraw her statement. A statement that was made about us without consulting with us. If the Minister is really concerned about our rights, we the sex workers and other human rights defenders (including people/groups defending the rights of women, sexual minorities, Dalits, workers; and health rights’ activists) request that she take immediate steps to:

– Decriminalise sex work within the State

– End discrimination against sex workers and their children in matters of education, housing, livelihood, health, social welfare measures. Ensure that department officials take timely action in a rights-based manner owed to citizens of India, to ensure that the rights of sex workers are supported.

– Frame guidelines to the police to call on them to recognise all forms of violence faced by sex workers and take adequate measures to register these complaints and take necessary action.

– End police and goonda violence against sex workers and punish the perpetrators of violence and make Karnataka the flag bearer of sex workers rights in India


Please send in your endorsements by Sunday 17th June, 6.00PM to

Organizations and Individuals are encouraged to endorse this

Please circulate this within your e-mail networks.

In solidarity

Bharati, General Secretary
Karnataka Sex Workers Union
No-05, 4th Cross, Teachers Colony
Nagashetty Halli
RMV 2nd Stage
Bhupasandra Main Road
Bangalore – 560094


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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.


Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Women as the ‘displaced’: The context of South Asia’, edited by Suranjana Choudhury, academic and Nabanita Sengupta, academic, India.

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