Int’l Sex Workers Rights Day observed

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Monday, 03 March 2008
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Staff Correspondent

Sex workers at a discussion on Sunday demanded legal recognition of their profession to ensure their rights which are repeatedly violated by all.

Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh organised the discussion at the Dhaka Reporters Unity with the help of Actionaid Bangladesh and Concern to mark the International Sex Workers Rights Day that will be observed on Monday (March 3) across the world.

As there is no specific identity of the fathers of the children of female sex workers, they should introduce themselves by their mothers’ name in society, said Momtaz Begum, secretary of the network. They also demanded that the police stop harassing them in various ways.

Sometimes the police use the services of sex professionals by blackmailing them, force the floating sex workers to pay them money, and arrest them and send them to jail without any charge, where, more often than not, they are raped. Momtaz Begum also said that the government should take some action to ensure their children’s right to education as they are often denied admission to government or private schools.

Though the Department of Social Welfare established the Vagabond Centre to rehabilitate beggars or vagrants, not sex workers, the law enforcing personnel frequently take the sex workers and keep them confined in the Vagabond Centres, said the sex workers, and demanded that the police stop such harassment.

The 3rd of March is the International Sex Workers’ Rights Day. The day originated in 2001 when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex workers’ festival. The organisers wanted to celebrate the lives of sex workers as well as highlight their strength and determination. ‘Our profession is not legal, but it is not even illegal — our status is ambiguous.

So the government should revise the laws and give our profession legal recognition,’ said another leader of the network. Among others, the discussion was also addressed by former adviser of caretaker government Sultana Kamal, professor of the virology department of BSMMU Nazrul Islam and Farah Kabir of Actionaid Bangladesh.

To observe the day, the Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh will stage plays on trucks in many of the city’s roads on Monday.


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