Refused US visa to attend the XIX International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Washington DC later this month,sex workers and organisations working with them from 27 countries are all set to converge at Kolkata between July 21 and 27 to hold their own parallel IAC hub.
This is the first time the biannual conference is coming to India,albeit in a less grand manner. The hub,funded and set up by IAC,is for all sex workers who submitted abstracts for the main conference,but were refused entry. The move,according to Andrew Hunter of the Global Network of Sex Workers Project,was forced by the USs strident refusal to let sex workers enter the country as per their stated visa policy.
Among the questions on the US visa form is one on whether the applicant has worked as a prostitute. They do not give visas to anyone who has done so in the last 10 years,which made most of our delegates ineligible for entry into the US. We tried very hard to get it reversed but failed, Hunter added.
Fittingly,the theme of the Kolkata conference is Freedom Festival of Sex Workers.
In a reply to a query from The Indian Express,a spokesperson of the US Embassy said: While the US visa and privacy laws do not permit us to disclose information about specific visa cases,Section 212(a)(2)(D) of the Immigration and Nationality Act does make those who have engaged in prostitution within the last 10 years ineligible for visas. In certain circumstances,a waiver of this ineligibility could be available.
The US,one of the largest donors for HIV-AIDS programmes,has a clear policy not to work with prostitutes in contrast to India where the National Aids Control Organisation emphasises the importance of involving sex workers for HIV-AIDS initiatives and is very active among vulnerable groups.
* The XIX International AIDS Conference scheduled in Washington DC later this month
* Sex workers,organisations from 27 countries to converge at Kolkata between July 21-27 to hold parallel meet
* This is the first time the biannual conference is coming to India,albeit in a less grand form
* The meet is being co-hosted by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee,NSWP and All-India Network of Sex Workers