3.06.2011

Two faces of an argument

As mentioned in my previous post, I attended a talk by Sunitha Krishnan (Her Ted India video)of Prajwala last week. It was truly an inspiring speech and made a strong case for laws against prostitution in the country. In response to a question from a member of the audience, Sunitha, said legitimizing prostitution is  not answer to the ills facing women involved in this field. She said going by that logic rape, dacoity and other forms of social ills should be legitimized too. A big part of this contention was based on the fact that women who work as sex workers are in it by force.

Today, I came across a message in one of the discussion groups about the screening of a documentary on the sex workers of Sonagachi in West Bengal. The documentary, screened on Doordarshan, was named "We are the foot soldiers". In my effort to find a copy of this documentary online, I came across an article by Debolina Dutta & Oishik Sircar which analyzed the issue of prostitution from a different angle. It talked about an organization called the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), which is fighting for the rights of sex workers. It demands for the recognition of the industry as a part of the entertainment industry and given the rights that accrue for an industry thus recognised. At some points their argument went right opposite to what Sunitha had to say:

It is untrue that sex workers are always forced into the profession. And even if one accepts the fact that they are, it is not any different from when a person is unable to get into the profession of his or her choice due to lack of money or family pressures. If I want to become a doctor or engineer, but don't have the money, or I am not allowed by my family and I have to settle for being a clerk, will people say I was forced and talk about rescuing and rehabilitating me?
At other points it echoed the same feelings as her

A woman can choose to become a prostitute and still face coercion from a client, or she can be forced into it, yet assert herself by refusing a client." She adds, "Choice and force are not mutually exclusive; both are situations a sex worker can encounter and has to negotiate, like any other woman." And this 'choice' needs to be recognized and respected.

But this does not give the State an excuse to absolve itself from combating sex trafficking, especially in minors, and creating enabling conditions for access to healthcare and other social justice measures. Also, there is a need to treat violence in the profession as a crime, instead of criminalizing the profession itself
 
This is an interesting debate and I would like to hear Sunitha's viewpoints on this. Will let you know in case I hear from her.

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