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One meal per day for sex workers saving Rs 1 lakh for flood victims

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source: foodrelief.org

Sex workers hailing from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra lived on just a single meal a day in order to save money for the relief work in flood-hit Chennai.

NGO Snehalaya organized an event in Ahmednagar where the sex workers presented District Collector Anil Kawade with a cheque for Rs 1 lakh.

“These women were restless since the last four days, when they came to know of the deluge in Chennai. They decided they should do something to help residents there,” said the NGO Snehalaya founder Girish Kulkarni to a news agency.

The district houses three thousand sex workers, of whom, two thousand contributed to the relief fund, because they believed a disaster had befallen Tamil Nadu.

“We are in touch with Delhi-based NGO Goonj for ensuring further relief to the people of Chennai,” added Kulkarni.

Tamil Nadu coast lines were lashed with rains the entire past week, which flooded its capital– the port city Chennai, along with its surrounding areas. Thousands are homeless and are staying in relief camps with scare amenities. Rains have lessened much in both frequency and intensity now. Still, such has been the damage, that an epidemic outbreak is feared to possibly strike while people are attempting to recover the city.

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To counter Police Harassment, Uganda’s Sex Workers feel Phone is vital for their safety

The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, has vowed to crack down on both sex workers and their clients

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FILE - Women carry baskets of banana as they walk past a military personnel patrolling in Uganda's capital Kampala, February 19, 2016 Source: Reuters

When Fatia, 25, leaves her home to sell sex in the grungy hotels and hastily parked cars of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, she keeps her hand clenched around her phone.

After three years, her biggest fear is not violent clients or exposure to HIV, but harassment by Kampala’s police.

“The police start charging you. They say it (prostitution) is not allowed in the country,” Fatia, who declined to give her full name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

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“Some policemen even use you (for sex). They don’t pay you and then still they take you to the station.”

If arrested for prostitution, Fatia knows what to do. Call the emergency number for Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) – a sex workers’ advocacy organization – and beep once.

A representative from the bureau soon arrives at the station to gently remind the police that harassment or bribery of any citizen, even a sex worker, is illegal.

If that fails, she may invoke the name of one of Fatia’s influential clients to scare the police into releasing her.

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Gentle persuasion generally works.

Ugandan police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi denied systemic police harassment. However, he said instances of misconduct by individual officers was possible.

“The police have no policy of harassing the prostitutes on the streets,” Kaweesi said.

“Those who are victims should report to our professional standards unit … Absolutely nobody will punish them. We will listen to their complaints and follow it up.”

VULNERABLE

In Uganda, sex work is illegal and highly stigmatized, making women like Fatia vulnerable to unlawful arrest, rape, bribery, beating and murder, rights groups say.

The Indigo Trust, a UK-based foundation under The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, gave Lady Mermaid’s Bureau a grant in 2014 to help Ugandan sex workers fight abuse using technology.

It has provided around 1,000 sex workers across Uganda with information-loaded digital memory cards so they can use their phones to learn how to protect themselves against violence, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.

The material is available in multiple languages, and in written and video format, to maximize the number of women who can access it.

“They read them, follow them and do their work safely,” said Oliver Musoke, executive director of Lady Mermaid’s Bureau and a former sex worker.

The cards make it easier to reach larger numbers of women than through face-to-face counseling.

“Some women are not open (to meeting us),” said Musoke, who founded the organization in 2002 to improve sex workers’ access to medical, psychological and legal services and to educate them about sexual health and the law.

“They can read and take the information for themselves.”

Harassment

The criminalization of sex work in the conservative East African nation makes it difficult for those living on its margins to learn about their rights.

Fatia began selling sex hoping to save her earnings for a year and go into business, selling baby clothes.

But she continues to work the streets because she cannot earn enough to escape. Most days she gets one or two clients; some days, none.

“When you use protection, they give you very little money,” she said. “It’s not a good job at all.”

Anyone who engages in prostitution is liable to seven years in jail, according to Uganda’s 1950 Penal Code.

The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, has vowed to crack down on both sex workers and their clients.

But it is largely poor women who are targeted.

“Harassment occurs any time because sex work is illegal,” said Daisy Nakato Namakula, a former sex worker who heads the Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), which promotes sex workers’ rights.

WONETHA has received 85 reports of sex workers being arrested and harassed by the police since January, but says many more cases go undocumented.

Officers sometimes threaten to publish sex workers’ faces in the media and refuse to allow those with HIV/AIDS who are arrested to be brought their medication, Namakula said.

Ugandan police spokesman Kaweesi denied these allegations.

“(All) suspects have full rights of access to their relatives, access to medical attention, access to meals,” he said.

Musoke of Lady Mermaid’s Bureau, which has worked with more than 12,000 sex workers across Uganda, believes she is slowly changing Ugandans’ attitudes.

One policeman recently asked for a memory card to learn more about the situation of sex workers in the community, LMB reported.

“I have passed through that life,” Musoke said.

“I know their problems… That’s why I decided to create (Lady Mermaid’s Bureau), to let them know that they are also human.” (VOA)

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Every day girls are bought and sold in Delhi’s red light areas: DCW

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A 16-year-old girl stands inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi November 9, 2012. She was working as a maid and was later rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), a charity which rescues victims of bonded labour. There are no reliable figures for how many people are trafficked for domestic servitude. The Indian government says 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic work in 2011/12, a rise of almost 27 percent from the previous year. Activists say if you include women over 18 years, the figure could run into the hundreds of thousands. Picture taken November 9, 2012. To match Feature INDIA-TRAFFICKING/ REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal (INDIA - Tags: SOCIETY POVERTY) - RTR3B6H0

By Nita Bhalla

Siliguri (Thomson Reuters Foundation): Girls and women trafficked from the poorest states in India and sold for sexual exploitation to brothels in the Indian capital face a sad and horrible life with little hope of escaping, a senior Delhi government official said on Friday.

Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), said she had recently visited the city’s red light district of Garstin Bastion Road, popularly known as G.B. Road, where she was shocked by the lack of support given to sex workers.

“Every day, girls and women are being brought there. They are bought and sold there for between 5,000 rupees and 100,000 rupees ($75 to $1,500) depending on whether they are virgins or not,” Maliwal told an anti-trafficking event in the eastern town of Siliguri.

“They are forced to sleep with up to 30 men daily. Most of the time, they are not given any money as most of it goes to the pimp. It is extremely sad and cannot be justified in independent India. It’s just horrible.”

Almost 36 million people are enslaved worldwide — trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude, says the 2014 Global Slavery Index.

Almost half – 16 million – are in India. Many are from poor rural regions and are lured with the promise good jobs or marriage, but end up sold into domestic work, prostitution, or industries such as brick kilns or textile units.

Maliwal, who was appointed in July as chairperson of the DCW – a government body which focuses on implementing the safeguards provided for women under the constitution – said little had been done in the past to protect trafficked sex workers.

Despite a committee being set up in 2012 to look into anti-trafficking measures and rehabilitation in Delhi, she said, the committee had not met once until October last year when she had pushed for it.

“I really don’t understand how the highest levels of the government could do something like that. We had a meeting in October and some good decisions have now come out of it,” Maliwal told the gathering of civil society organizations, lawyers, judges and government officials.

“Delhi doesn’t have a rehabilitation policy, there is no restoration policy for victims and now after this committee met, we are trying to work on it,” she added.

The DCW is also starting a pilot project where it will partner with the private sector and select up to 50 rescued women and girls to provide them with training and jobs as well as set up residential schools for the children of sex workers.

Maliwal said she also found many other problems faced by the 5,000 sex workers residing in G.B. Road which she said could be easily resolved.

Despite an estimated 600,000 condoms being used monthly, none had been distributed by the government for five months due a “technical glitch,” she said.

“This is very strange and very sorry. You can imagine that if 600,000 condoms are normally being used there, and then there are none, the kind of infection that might spread. It is almost like an epidemic that we are creating,” said Maliwal.

“We have now issued a notice and ensured that condoms are being distributed.”

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CM Jayalalithaa seeks Rs 25,912 crore as flood relief

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Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the state requires Rs.25,912 crore towards flood relief measures and an immediate release of Rs.2,000 crore.

In a letter to Modi, the text of which was released to the media here, Jayalalithaa said the supplementary memorandum reflects the damage caused during the fourth spell of rainfall and the consequent floods in the first week of December.

“Tamil Nadu immediately needs an additional sum of Rs.17,431.51 crore for temporary and permanent restoration,” Jayalalithaa said.

Including the earlier request of Rs.8,481 crore towards relief and restoration of flood-affected areas, the total amount of central funds the state needs was around Rs.25,912 crore.

Stressing the state government’s commitment to rebuilding the infrastructure and reducing people’s distress, Jayalalithaa said the costs were huge and difficult for the state government to meet, after the loss of tax revenue due to the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.

Pointing out that the floods in Tamil Nadu have already been declared a “calamity of severe nature”, Jayalalithaa requested Modi to instruct the union home ministry and other concerned ministries to consider the state’s two memoranda for an assistance of Rs.25,912 crore.

She urged Modi for an immediate release of Rs.2,000 crore from the National Disaster Response Fund.

Heavy rains — the worst in a century — battered Chennai and adjoining Kanchipuram, Cuddalore and Thiruvallur districts in the past month resulting in unprecedented floods. Nearly 390 people lost their lives due to the rains.

On November 23, Jayalalithaa sent a memorandum to Modi asking for central funding of Rs.8,481 crore towards flood relief and an immediate relief of Rs.2,000 crore.

Subsequently, a central government team surveyed the flood destruction.

Even after the team’s visit, heavy rains continued to hit the four districts.

During Modi’s recent visit, he announced a relief of Rs.1,000 crore in addition to the earlier Rs.940 crore.

According to Jayalalithaa, the Rs.940 crore included Rs.133.79 crore of arrears from 2014-15 towards the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and Rs.254.62 crore towards the second instalment of SDRF for current fiscal.(IANS)