Karnataka: Sex workers demand suitable housing from government

The KSWU stressed the need for proper housing for sex workers and also called for the repeal of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act

ByDeeksha Devadiga

Published Jun 30, 2022 | 5:14 PM Updated Jul 22, 2022 | 2:55 PM

Karnataka Women’s Development Corporation General Manager MG Paly at the symposium. (Image: Supplied)

The Karnataka Sex Workers Union (KSWU), during a three-day symposium from 24 June in Bengaluru, stressed the need for proper housing for sex workers, and also called for the repeal of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

The KSWU members said that the government schemes intended to provide housing and business loans to sex workers affect them adversely because of the riders and conditions they come saddled with.

Even though sex work is partially legalised in India, the schemes are failing to provide them with a life of dignity due to the deep-rooted stigma against their work in the country, they said.

The housing predicament

They said some of them got houses in 2016 under the Rajiv Gandhi Housing Scheme for the HIV-positive.

But most of them relocated from those houses as they were seen as nothing more than HIV patients.

Deepa (name changed), a member of the KSWU, explained that the area is now referred to as an “Aids Colony” by the locals.

She told South First that sex workers demand not just housing but also a life of dignity in those houses.

She also urged the Karnataka government to provide them housing without disclosing their profession.

However, Karnataka State Women Development Corporation (KSWDC) General Manager MG Paly said sex workers change their residence frequently and most of them also lack identity and address proofs, making it difficult for the government to identify them.

Their reluctance to identify as sex workers also poses an issue in creating the required legal documents for bank loans, added Paly.

“We have explained the issue to the sex workers, and they understand the problem but have no solution for it,” Paly told South First.

The Devadasi scheme

The Devadasi scheme that provides loans to the sex workers in the state has also not helped improve their lives.

Paly said that the state gives them a subsidiary amount of ₹30,000 through the scheme to start small businesses.

Deepa, however, said, “Most of us sex workers live in a rented place, and the meagre ₹30,000 given by the government is not sufficient to start any business.”

She also stressed that no amount given by the government would suffice until sex workers have a place of their own.

Paly said the Ministry of Women and Child Development has proposed new schemes to support sex workers, like increasing the annual amount to ₹50,000.

“I can try, but I can’t promise anything,” she said about the proposal getting a nod from the state government.

Other demands

The KSWU has also been working to achieve recognition as a trade-union status for itself and employment rights for all sex workers in the country.

KSWU members demanded care centres for sex workers’ children. They said they need a facility that will run during the night, when they are at work.

Paly said on the subject, “There are childcare centres in every taluka, which are free and can be availed by everyone. However, they do not operate throughout the night, something that sex workers want.”

The demand for separate childcare centres for sex workers is vital because of the “discrimination and ill-treatment our children face because of our profession”, explained Deepa.