After police raids, sex workers ban NGOs
By: Alifiya Khan
NGOs complain HIV intervention projects have come to a standstill as brothel owners, CSWs not allowing them entry saying they are police informers; NGOs say they do not agree with the way raids are conducted
In a major setback to the HIV intervention projects conducted by NGOs on behalf of the government in the red light areas, the volunteers of these organisations are being refused entry to the brothels.
No Entry: NGO members claim that commercial sex workers do not allow them inside the brothels in Budhwar Peth. File pic
After the recent police raid, in which more than 58 commercial sex workers (some of them minors) were rescued forcibly from Budhwar Peth, brothel owners and even sex workers refuse to allow volunteers accusing them of passing on information to police regarding them.
The brothel owners are angry that a few local NGOs who work for HIV awareness at Budhwar Peth, also assisted the police in carrying out the raids.
Tejaswi Sevekari, director of Saheli, an NGO and sex workers' collective, said, "We have regular tests to check HIV, referrals for ART therapy and peer educators and leaders going into the brothels regularly. However, since the raid happened, our volunteers are not being allowed inside. There is stiff resistance. Those coming in are also criticised and we do not agree with the manner in which the raids were conducted," said Sevekari.
NGOs complain that many girls picked up during the raids were not minor and were forced to go with the police.
This has led to animosity between government agencies and sex workers. As a result, the projects that are being run by government agencies or through NGO partners are facing stiff opposition.
Seema Waghmode, director of Kayakalp, an NGO said that a single raid not conducted well is enough to upset an equation built over years. "They trust us and that is why they co-operate in our projects. But this trust is built over years and we tread on a fine balance. The day they feel that they are in trouble and that someone is passing on information about them, which can affect their business, their first reaction would be to block us. In this situation, those genuinely needing help especially HIV infected persons are the ones to suffer biggest loss," said Waghmode.