The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued an advisory on Wednesday, October 7, recognising the sex workers as informal workers, making them eligible for beneficiary schemes and benefits.
The commission issued an 11-page advisory titled 'Human Rights Advisory on rights of Women in Context of COVID-19', listing the recommendations for sex workers under the women at work section.
According to reports, the advisory contains several recommendations that were made to the commission by the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW). The submission was made by NNSW, an umbrella authority comprising 19 organisations across the country, to a committee assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people's human rights in August 2020.
The NHRC had constituted a 'Committee of Experts on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Human Rights and Future Response' to assess the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on the realisation of the rights of the people, especially the marginalized section of the population.
The advisory has instructed that the state governments should provide assistance and relief to the sex workers. It also mentioned that temporary documents may be issued to enable the sex workers to access welfare measures including Public Distribution System (PDS) as many do not possess ration cards or other citizenry documents. Additionally, it stated that migrant sex workers to be included in schemes and benefits extended to the migrant workers.
The most significant steps enlisted also include recognising that sex workers who are into non-traditional living arrangements are prone to domestic abuse from partners and such incidents should be identified and reported.
Under the current pandemic situation, the governments must ensure access to free testing and treatment of COVID-19 and also provide soaps, sanitizers, and appropriate masks to all sex workers at different localities. The authorities also must ensure access to healthcare services, especially for the prevention of HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections and their treatment.
"Six of the eight demands that we have made have been clearly stated in the advisory. We are very happy," Tejaswee Sevekari of the Saheli Sangh said while speaking to India Journal.
"This has been the success of our advocacy for years. We had fought for the decriminalisation of the work for so long. We wholeheartedly welcome this decision," said Tejaswee who has been working for over 23 years to empower this vulnerable community.