Another Victory for Sex Workers

By Prerna Srivastava|2nd May 2008
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In a prior post, Vinay wrote about a groundbreaking event – the establishment of the first ever bank run for and by sex workers in Kamathipura, Bombay.

As a follow up to that post, OneWorld South Asia reports today that the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India has recently introduced a life insurance scheme for sex workers. In fact, in the past month alone, 250 sex workers in Sonagachi, Calcutta have been given life insurance policies, with plans to expand to other regions of India.

This development is especially significant, as it furthers recognition of India’s 2 million women sex workers as workers with a defined set of fundamental rights. For Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Indomitable Women’s Coordination Committee), a forum of 65,000 sex workers in West Bengal, this development brings sex workers one step closer to legalization. According to Dey, a member of DMSC,

We [have been] fighting for legalisation of sex work for over a decade. There are debates and a flurry of misleading promises. But this is the first time that a government company as big as LIC has recognised us as professionals.

To reiterate, this represents a tremendous victory for sex workers, as it symbolizes an eventual shift towards a rights-based framework, which recognizes sex workers as workers with the fundamental right to basic services such as savings accounts and life insurance policies. Even more fundamentally, developments such as these signal an era where sex workers can live their lives with self-respect and dignity.

This discussion, of course, can be complicated further by adding more problematic layers – sex trafficking, sex tourism, and child prostitution. Furthermore, we can have a critical debate regarding the types of changes espoused by legalization, abolition, and decriminalization advocates.

For now, however, let’s revel in the news.

Why? Because finally, the voices that matter the most – the women themselves – are being heard.