A sex worker from Jharkhand,who has been residing at Budhwar Peth for the last 12 years,says they are hassled at times by the police. She is,however,completely unaware of her rights like making telephone calls from the police station or ensuring that a woman officer is present when they are rounded up by the police.
A transgender from Andhra Pradesh who has been staying at Budhwar Peth for the last two years says she never knew people like her enjoy similar rights like others on several matters like property rights and others.
With the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) and NGO Pathfinder International starting a legal rights awareness training programme for them,the marginalised communities like sex workers,homosexuals and transgenders now feel empowered and enlightened.
The DLSA has,for the first time,also set up a legal cell for them.
The sessions have been jointly conducted at the community learning centre (CLC) in Budhwar Peth,which is a joint initiative of the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society,Pathfinder International and the Pune Municipal Corporation.
Sex workers under the CLC are encouraged to set up community-based organisations and many of them have been trained in beauticians course and other vocations. The DLSA,headed by Principal District Judge Anant Badar,has conducted a series of sessions to train volunteers from these communities in legal rights.
DLSA member secretary Advocate R K Malabade told Newsline that the aim is to acquaint them with various laws such as the Domestic Violence Act,the Hindu Succession Act,property laws and other rights.
Several women are from outside the state and are illiterate. They are not aware of so many simple things like ensuring that they have access to the phone in case if they are taken to the police station or that they have a right to stake claim to ancestral property, Malabade said.
According to Dr Laxmi Mali,consultant at Pathfinder International,which is facilitating the workshop and the training sessions,there were 20 sex workers among the volunteers.
Malabade said the legal cell for the marginalised communities had been set up at the DLSA office and it would serve as a platform for them to seek free legal aid. We will also help them file litigations in case they have any complaints, he said.
Malabade added that senior lawyers had so far conducted three training sessions on issues like domestic violence,dowry deaths,maintenance and Hindu Succession Act. Another session is scheduled to be held next week.