Sex workers are now listed under the `Women at Work’ section by the National Human Rights Commission’s advisory on Covid-19. The NHRC advisory on rights of women, in the context of Covid-19, was issued on October 7 and was based on an impact assessment done by experts, said Anita Sinha, joint secretary of NHRC.
“The commission has been deeply concerned about the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised sections of society, which have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid- 19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown,” read the circular.
The committee included representatives from civil society organisations, independent experts and representatives from ministries and departments. Based on their advice, the NHRC issued the advisory.
Activists like Meena Seshu of SANGRAM and Tejasvi Sevekari of Saheli, a collective of sex workers, and others have welcomed the classification of listing sex workers under the `Women at Work’ section. `
`NHRC has recognised and included the recommendations of sex workers in the advisory on Covid… that’s a welcome development,” said Seshu.
‘Sex work is dignified work’, according to the National Network of Sex Workers — NNSW — a network of female, trans and male sex workers in India, with over 1,50,000 members in 72 collectives, networks and federations in eight states.
A large proportion of sex workers (male, female and trans) work from home and arrange clients via mobile phones, independently or through an agent. A large percentage of women are housewives, and their families do not know of their work. During the Covid-19 epidemic, their livelihoods came to a complete halt. They were unable to explain the loss of livelihood to their families or approach collectives that have beem giving relief to sex workers in brothels, according to NSNW.
The NHRC advisory has suggested that sex workers should be recognised as informal workers and temporary documents should be issued to enable them to access welfare measures such as rations under the public distribution system. Meanwhile, other recommendations in the advisory include setting up a task force on gender-based violence to coordinate and monitor support and prevention services, providing free contraception and giving moratoriums for all loans taken by women workers.