Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Strongly condemning the actions of Karnataka State health and police officials, that are fuelling the spread of HIV-AIDS

Press Release
Strongly condemning the actions of Karnataka State health and police officials, that are fuelling the spread of HIV-AIDS

Bangalore, Dec 1, 2008

Health Department in Ramnagara District spreads misinformation against homosexuals making them further vulnerable to HIV infection: District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit, Ramanagara District and District Health and Family Welfare Officer, Ramanagara District have conducted the World AIDS Day program today in Ramanagra town and have spread the misinformation against homosexuals through public distribution of leaflets. Excerpts from the leaflet include ‘salingakama: HIV, AIDSge rahadhaari’ (meaning – Homosexuality: Highway to HIV, AIDS), ‘salingakaamigalinda dhooraviri’ (meaning – Stay away from Homosexuals) and warns people to stay away from homosexuals as a way to prevent AIDS. This messages spread prejudice, stigma and discrimination against homosexuals and make them further vulnerable to HIV infection. This is completely opposite to the strategy of National AIDS Control Program, which seeks to fight stigma and discrimination against homosexuals and support their human rights as a strategy to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection. It is shocking that local health authorities are doing harm to HIV-AIDS program in Karnataka whereas Ms. K. Sujatha Rao (Director General of National AIDS Control Program) and Mr. Anbumani Ramodass (Union health minister) are in the forefront vocally demanding the decimalization of homosexual sex between consenting adults. To prevent AIDS, we need to reach out to homosexuals and support efforts for their health and human rights.

Background: Karnataka is one of the high prevalence states for HIV in India. There is a need for serious and committed efforts to combat AIDS to prevent new infections and to prevent collapse of the public health system, which is already in a bad shape. There is also a strong need to reach out to the people most vulnerable to HIV infection i.e. sexual minorities, sexworkers and Intravenous Drug Users etc. and support them in accessing various social entitlements. It is internationally proved that the best way to prevent HIV is to support the human rights of marginalized people including sexual minorities.

Ineffective functioning and corruption in Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society: Karnataka State AIDS Control Society, the main body to coordinate the governmental efforts against AIDS has come under severe criticism in the past few years for its ineffective functioning (not utilizing allocated funds properly and sending back most of the funds, frequent change of its directors, not involving people infected/most-affected by HIV in a meaningful way, not involving organizations working on HIV-AIDS issues in a meaningful way etc.) and financial corruption.

Police are purging hijras out of Bengaluru City, making them vulnerable to HIV infection: police have declared an illegal war on hijras (working class male-to-female transgenders) in the past 2 months. On 20th October 2008, when HIV-AIDS program staff (crisis team members of Sangama, an organization implementing the activities of National AIDS Control Program among hijras and homosexual/bisexual males in the city) enquired about the detention of 5 hijras by police, Police belonging to Banashakari Police Station stripped, verbally-physically-sexually assaulted and booked the HIV-AIDS workers on false charges. When human rights activists from various dalit-trade union-women’s-sexual minority-sexworker organizations questioned the illegal police actions, Banashankari Police verbally-physically-sexually assaulted them and booked them on false charges. Sangama’s crisis intervention is recognized as a best practice model to be emulated by other NGOs by the Indian Government in its National AIDS Control Plan – III (Strategy and Implementation Plan, NACP 3).

In 2nd week of November, Police from Sampigehalli and Amruthahalli police stations started spreading false rumors about already marginalized hijras including ‘hijras are kidnapping male children, making them transgenders by injecting with hormones, castrating them by force and forcing them into sexwork/begging’. Police tried to push hijras out of Dasarahalli area (where many hijras are living for many years) in Amruthalli police station limits through issuing written notices and pressurizing the house owners to throw their hijras tents out. This led to the large scale evictions of hijras out of this area and hijras are scattered and are living under the constant fear of police attacks. HIV-AIDS prevention efforts among hijras in Bengaluru is severely affected, as it is becoming impossible to reach out to hijras.

These actions of Karnataka health and police officials are putting the Karnataka HIV-AIDS prevention work at risk. There actions are fuelling prejudice and misinformation against homosexuals and hijras, one of the most marginalized populations of our society. These actions are fueling the spread of HIV-AIDS in the state.

We strongly condemn these actions of health and police officials and demand that the state and union governments take immediate corrective measures.

Yours faithfully

Geetha, General Secretary, Karnataka Sex Workers Union
Umesh, General Secreary, Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum

Ramanagara leaflet

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Appeal for Support

Karnataka Sex Workers union (KSWU) is a trade union of sexworkers (women, men and transgender) in Karnataka. Our members are primarily from Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Ramanagara and Dharwad districts. KSWU was established in May 2006 and is functioning formally from 18th July 2007. KSWU has applied for the registration under The Trade Unions Act in January 2008. KSWU is affiliated to New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), a national federation of independent trade unions in India. 

KSWU strives to get sexwork recognised as dignified labour, campaigns for decriminalisation of sexwork and demands labour rights that are guaranteed to all other workers. KSWU defends the rights of sexworkers and resists violence, oppression and exploitation by the police, goondas, government agencies and others. KSWU advocate for fair working conditions and social entitlements including voting rights, health services, housing, access to public distribution system (ration card), savings-credit and loan facilities, retirement benefits, Provident Fund, Employees State Insurance, insurance, education for sexworkers children and full social security. 

KSWU is an independent organisation of sexworkers governed democratically by its members. KSWU is free from the control of the powerful structural forces that control (through AIDS funding) the decisions of most sexworkers and their organisations in India - large funding agencies, UN agencies and  governments. KSWU raises the collective voice of the sexworkers to fight against the violence, exploitation, stigma, discrimination and prejudice and negotiates with governments and various powerful  institutions. 

KSWU’s work is carried forward through voluntary work of its members, its leaders and it’s General Secretary, who is provided with a monthly honorarium. Some of our work includes: 

  1. Advocating for voting rights for sexworkers and supporting sexworkers in getting their names enrolled in the electoral lists. This resulted in getting more than 400 sexworkers names included in the electoral lists.
  2. Fighting against the efforts of Indian government to amend Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act to penalise the clients of the sexworkers.
  3. Demanding government action against police and goondas involved in brutal attack on sexworkers and their supporters in Channapatna on 2nd June 2007 (while peacefully protesting police harassment of sexworkers). KSWU get the PUCL’s fact-finding report on this incident to Kannada and got the report published in English and Kannada.
  4. Conducted a study about the needs of sexworkers children (education, shelter, health and nutrition) in Bangalore Rural and Ramnagara districts and is taking steps to address the needs found through the study.
  5. Helping sexworkers in crisis situations, e.g. helped a sexworker when police illegally seized a large amount of cash and property by intervening in the crisis and getting the cash and property released.
  6. Conducting state executive committee meetings once a month and organising occasional meetings of the KSWU members in different towns and cities facilitating democratic decision making.
  7. Encouraging and supporting KSWU leaders who are coming out publicly as sexworkers in cities and towns to defend their rights.
  8. Building links and alliance with various trade unions and other progressive organisation.

Our activities are supported financially through members’ monthly membership fee, individual donations from sexworkers and others supporters. KSWU at present is able to support the honorarium of its General Secretary, state executive committee meetings and few other incidental expenses. KSWU doesn’t have enough resources for the following: 

  1. Advocacy programs that involves large mobilisation or long-distance travel.
  2. Residential training programs for capacity building of the its members and leaders.
  3. Expenses for approaching courts if the union’s application for registration is rejected.
  4. Expansion of union activities out side the districts of Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural and Ramnagara and to scale up union’s work by paying honorarium to more people.


Hence we request you to join hands with us by supporting KSWU financially either through one time donation or fixed monthly donation. You can also support us by meeting specific expenses - state executive committee meetings, training programs, contribution towards honorarium of our staff.  


In Solidarity, 

Chikkathayamma (President)

Geetha (General Secretary)

Veena (Treasurer)