Sex Work and Empowerment

Aastha Parivaar, India

Neha Devi

Neha Devi on June 28, 2018 in Women Empowerment

In spite of India having established innumerous national and international accords on women rights, it has failed to protect human rights of women, mainly of sex workers. The media fuels an image of prostitution as an unscrupulous work that threatens to contaminate the people in the society. Despite the law strictly prohibiting exploitation and discrimination based on gender, it leaves the sex workers as a prey to abuses of police and government officials. The stigma in the society results in denial of basic rights not only for sex workers but also their families. This has exhibited high levels of violence in the sex industry, sex workers, lack of access to health care and increasing level of HIV infection.

An NGO named ‘Aastha Parivaar’ started by Seema Sayyed in 2009, took an initiative to bring a change in the grievous situation of the sex workers and their children, not only in India but other parts of the world. It provides cover to various sex worker communities including street based, brothel based, home based, male and hijra sex workers by ensuring vulnerability reduction and safer sex practices. It addresses the issues regarding health, human rights, crises intervention, legal literacy, HIV intervention and alternative livelihood in Mumbai, Pune and Thane.

The organisation provides financial and administration support to 13 registered community-based organisation (CBO) which operate at field level to help different sex workers to voice and address their individual needs, providing them with a doorway towards growth and freedom. It moves with the motive of empowering the sex workers and their children so that they can live with self-respect, dignity and free from discrimination. It has a Crisis response system known 'Aastha Tatkal Seva' implemented by self-help groups to provide assistance in situations of harassment or violence by police, goons, clients and pimps, and work for health and medical needs. As for the children, it has implemented Orphan and Vulnerable children (OVC) Program that takes care of the health and education aspects of their lives, helping them afford a bright and hopeful future. It is the efforts put by the dedicated volunteers and effective strategic planning of the management that is credited to the success of the HIV intervention and sex workers advocacy program.

The organisation's solicitous work has become great inspiration and a learning site for many NGOs around the world. It conducts training and workshops to share its strategies and success of various projects and models. It has solved 83,000 crises till date, 360 projects have been undertaken, and 254 HIV+ members are helped. The organisation also contributed to the FHI360’s Africa Bridge Project, which aims to foster sharing of resources and optimization of practices between organisations in high risk areas of Africa and India. Encouraged by its determination and hard work, organisations such as AIESC, FPA India, Xavier, Toolbox, Danamojo, Amazon, DY Patel University, and many more have given their financial and moral support for the success of the good work.

It has been truly said ‘A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal’ and that is all the sex worker communities need at this moment.

To read more about the inspirational work they are doing, visit Aastha Parivaar today!

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