On December 15th 2019 an article was published in Praja Vani on sex workers which has-a lot of false information that would further marginalize sex workers and more jmportantly adversely affect HIV prevention work in Karnataka. . The article mentions KSAPS as encouraging sex work through distributing condoms and recruiting minor girls for such distribution which converts such minors also as sex workers. This is a statement of defamation as KSAPS has a clear recruitment policy and no minors are employed by any NGOS/CBOS in any of the projects across all districts of Karnataka. Such false allegations only undermine the HIV prevention work which is critical ås in the past two decades Karnataka has shown remarkable results in bringing infection rates across all populations of the State. Ashodaya Samithi as a sex workers’ organization wishes to point out that NACO and KSAPS are part of the government which would never encourage sex work but is mandated to control HIV infections and provide therapeutic treatment to all those who are already infected to prolong and improve the quality of their lives. The purported study that is mentioned in the article seems mere arbitrary aggregation of data with little or no scientific basis. The article also provides some data on human trafficking for sex work which is also not factual. We wish to bring to your notice that as per Supreme Court guidelines most of the community based organizations have installed a self regulatory board in the organization comprising of sex workers and representatives from CWC, WCD, police, etc, to address the issue of trafficking and each new individual found in the field is brought before the board and counseled. If it is found that the individual is a minor or does not wish to continue sex work, then such a person is reintegrated to their families or placed in government shelter homes for skills building and employment placement. It is a moot point to note here that it is a sex worker in the field who would recognize a minor and hence her help and assistance is solicited to prevent minors from entering into sex work. All CBOS vehemently oppose minors entering into sex work. The article further states that KSAPS has been distributing huge funds which encourage sex workers to continue to do the work instead of being rehabilitated. KSAPS has not been distributing funds on time, ever, and records would throw it up. Despite delays ranging from six months to one and half years in fund disbursements, projects are continued to be implemented because the community cares for themselves and knows they need to do it to prevent their sisters from getting infected. The research team should have done an audit on disbursements before making such an incorrect statement. It is important to identify populations that are vulnerable to HIV such as Female sex workers, homosexual persons, Transgender persons and injecting drug users. Hence the outreach is not only to provide safe measurers to these populations but also to ensure HIV is not transmitted through them. Karnataka has a HIV prevalence of less that 1% among the general population which speaks volumes about the success of NACO/KSAPS program and hence the article in Praja Vani is only attempting to further marginalize sex workers and not really stating Facts. The study by Ms Jayamala needs to be scrutinized under scientific and public health related experts for it to be published. But this newspaper has jumped the gun without consulting CBOS. In conclusion it is important to note that Ms. Jayamala has been misguided in her attempt to help sex workers. She has taken the view that sex work should be either abolished or rehabilitated. While it may work for a few thousand women, for lakhs of women who have preferred to do sex work for a living it does not apply. While rehabilitation as an idea is good, it will work only for aged sex workers and hence defeat the very purpose of the thinking. As sex workers says, “My body, my right” and please don’t decide about us without bring us to the table. The articles are poorly written and do not present the right picture at all besides being highly judgmental about the government, about the communities and about HIV prevention. This press meet held at Bangalore Press Club today (30th December 2019) organized by Ms.Lakshmi, Secretary, Ashodaya Samithi, Mysore and following organizations representatives participated during the press meet: Ms.Lakshmi, Secretary, Ashodaya Samithi, Ms.Bhagya, State Coordinator, Ashodaya Samithi, Ms. Ranjini, Swathi Mahila Sangha, Bangalore, Ms.Geetha, Vijaya Mahila Sangha, Bangalore, Ms.Lakshmi, Saukya Sanjeevini Samsthe, Chikkaballapur, Snehajyothi Sangha, Chamarajanagar etc., to address the press meet.
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