- Women rescued from brothels are sometimes “forced to provide sexual services in rehabilitation homes and thus become victims of rehabilitation”
- “Skill development” was ineffective as skills such as sewing or making papad and pickles are economically unsustainable
- 77 per cent (168 out of 218) women who were released returned to sex work.
79 per cent (193 out of 243) women said at the time of raid, they were voluntarily in sex work and did not want to be “rescued”. These are the findings of a unique study into the experiences of women who had been raided, rescued and rehabilitated as part of anti-trafficking strategies. The research comes against the backdrop of the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, which was recently approved by the Cabinet.
According to research author Meena Seshu, “The study was a search for evidence to answer crucial questions: If women entered sex work by force, then why would they want to return to sex work voluntarily? If they entered because of lack of skills to do other jobs, why did they return after they were taught skills that could have helped them earn? If they entered sex work due to ‘force of circumstance’ why would they return when those circumstances had changed for the better? If they entered because of deception, lure, by unscrupulous persons who they trusted, why would they return when they were given a chance to make a ‘new’ life? If they entered because of lack of life choices, why would they ‘choose’ to return?”
The research was led and conducted by sex workers’ collective Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), NGO Sangram and Rights4Change based in the Netherlands. Data was collated for 243 women who were raided between 2005 and 2017 in four towns of Maharashtra — Kolhapur, Jalgaon, Pune and Sangli — through interviews and group discussions, home visits and visits to rescue homes. The study employed the Right Guide, a tool to investigate and analyse the human rights effects of anti-trafficking laws and policies, link these to the human rights obligations of the government and use the outcomes to more effectively advocate for rights-based and evidence-led policy reforms.
In Pune, the researchers spoke to women who had been raided and released from rescue homes. They also filed Right To Information (RTI) petitions to ascertain the status of those in rescue homes. The researchers held group discussions as well as personal interviews with the women who were picked up in raids in the area.
The entire process of the raids smacks of a notable disregard for the “purported” victims who were being rescued, they said. Humiliation, verbal and physical abuse routinely accompanied these raids. Sexual coercion and extortion of money from sex workers by the police was used as a sort of insurance against being raided or they were mistreated by the police, they found. Police excesses form a common theme, in some cases amounting to forced labour and even torture-like treatment in police custody, the authors said.