Sex workers seek legal recognition

Published : 8:46 am  October 20, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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By Lahiru Pothmulla and Sanath Desmond
An organization calling itself the Centre for Sex Worker’s Rights (CSWR) yesterday requested President Maithripala Sirisena to legalise their occupation and  provide them legal recognition so that they could continue with their profession without any hindrance.

CSWR Co-President B. Maheshwari said those who criticized their profession had neglected to look into how and why sex workers had been forced into this situation.

“I’m here in this occupation today because of my husband. If he hadn’t abandoned me and our two kids, I wouldn’t have to do this. Husbands should learn not to leave their wives. When a girl is helpless, men try to take advantage of her and ruin her life. It’s not the government or the police who are helping us to make ends meet. I’m doing this to feed my children and to educate them,” she told a news conference.

She charged the police were arresting them for a fine of Rs. 100 and putting them in jail for one and a half month. “What people don’t know is that police come to us the day before they arrest us and pay us for the service and the next day they arrest us. When we are in jail for a month, there is no one to look after our kids. This is why we request the President to provide us some concession and to legalise the occupation,” she said.   

Addressing the news conference, political activist Wikramabahu Karunaratne said a legal immunity was needed to protect sex workers from those who are suppressing them and treating them like slaves.

 CSWR National Organiser Attorney Senaka Perera said the Vagrants Ordinance of Sri Lanka should be abolished which allows the police to arrest a woman only for standing by herself at a bus halt but not a man for the very same reason.

“Most of these workers are not engaged in the occupation willingly but the police approach towards them is very inhumane. Today, even Ministers consider  about the appearance when hiring a secretary and they might also have to act as sex workers,” he said adding that they were not attempting to promote the occupation but only attempting to protect sex workers.

“Their rights are also human rights,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sakuni Mayadunne who is a transgender, requested the President to facilitate a mechanism to change their Identity cards once they underwent sex change. She said she had to face many difficulties because she could not change her ID after the sex change.
“If politicians can seek our votes and it means something, what’s stopping them from accepting us? We too are human” she said.