Sex Work and Human Rights

XIX International AIDS Conference Kolkata

By Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee


Pegged as the Freedom Festival, the central theme will be the “seven freedoms” that sex workers are entitled to including freedom of movement and to migrate, to access quality health services, to work and choose occupation, to associate and unionise, to be protected by the law; freedom from abuse and violence, from stigma and stigma and discrimination.

The sessions will begin in the morning and will run through till 10.30 at night to provide an overlap of 5 hours with the Washington conference sessions and Global Village activities. A video link has been arranged every evening starting 6.30pm between Kolkata and the Washington conference sessions and the Global Village activities.

The conference hub at Kolkata has been organised to hold a plenary and several small group sessions. In addition, arrangements have been made for a global village to facilitate informal exchanges between sex worker groups from India and other nations. Entry and participation for the community is free of cost. The Hub will act as a true space for community exchange, cultural performance and sharing.


National: 300 representatives from about 20 organizations from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, Nagaland, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

International: 120 representatives from 66 organizations from 47 countries of Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, North America and Caribbean.


The morning sessions at the Hub, will involve technical presenters but will be dominated community presenters from India and other countries sharing their experiences, learning and discussing the way forward. The sessions will be on the topics that will feature later in the evening in the satellite links with the Washington conference.  Sessions for Sex Workers  Sessions on the Pre conference day (21 July) are sharing by male and transgender sex worker, sex workers living with HIV; which will then be followed by the live link with Washington which will feature sharing by male and transgender sex workers and sex workers living with HIV and AIDS.  The morning session of the second day (22 July) has an interesting debate on Media’s response to the sex workers rights agenda. This will be followed by the opening ceremony and community cultural performances. The keynote address and plenary session will focus on the theme “Sex Workers Rights are Human Rights” and followed by a community discussion on the seven freedoms. This will be followed by a Sex worker Session in Washington which is a Call to Action, with Global Sex Workers recommending policy changes for better HIV prevention and treatment. Speakers from the Kolkata will also present and exchange their views through the satellite link.  From 23 to 27 July each of the seven freedoms will feature as topics of presentation and community discussion at the Hub. These include

  • Legal protection required for sex workers and promoting access to social protection schemes (23 July morning and satellite link with Washington session)
  • Strengthening an enabling environment to protect sex workers
    (24 July morning session only)
  • Ensuring financial security and sex worker led responses to migration and trafficking
    (25 July, morning and satellite link with Washington session)
  • Seeking social justice and livelihoods
    (26 July morning and satellite link with Washington session)

On 25th July an interesting discussions is scheduled on Rights, Governance and Accountability in the Sex Work movement (by AINSW and DMSC) which will be followed by the live webcast link to the Washington session on using the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of UN to ensure accountability for the rights of sex workers and LGBT communities.

Sessions for People Using Drugs

The program has three sessions for communities of drug users including messages from the Drug users hub in Kiev (23 July afternoon); Messages from Kolkata (24 July afternoon) and a plenary session presentation via satellite from Washington, Dynamics of the epidemic in context (26 July evening).

Sessions on the HIV Response 

Sessions focused on the HIV epidemic, response and treatment include a symposium of sex workers interventions in NACP IV (24 July morning); treatment knowledge (24, 25, 26 July morning); HIV, STI testing and treatment (25 July early evening).  The conference will be interspersed with cultural performances, rallies (24 July), an India evening (25th July).

Global Village 

The Global Village is a diverse and vibrant space where community gathers from all over the world to meet, share and learn from each other. It is a space for community to demonstrate the Rights based approach to health and development. It is also a space that invites conference participants to see how sex workers across the globe facilitated and headed the community actions and interventions. This would be first of its kind where DMSC, the largest sex workers collective will be the host of the Global village.  The Global Village is a community-driven and community– focused space designed to promote dialogue, support networking, build solidarity, and promote inclusion in the global community. The Global Village facilitated the exchange of knowledge and information related to all facets of the human feelings, experience, expressions and response to HIV.  The Global Village promotes networking between north and south, east and west and provides a space for displays, discussions and performances from throughout the world. The Global Village is open to conference delegates.

The Organizers

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a community based organization of the sex workers of West Bengal, which for the last two decades has been running eleven HIV/AIDS targeted intervention program in 51 sex worker sites. Durbar run SHIP (Sonagachi HIV Intervention Programme) programme has been awarded as model project by World Health Organization.  The Global Network of Sex Workers Project (NSWP) which was established as an informal alliance in 1990 by a group of sex worker rights activists working within sex work projects around the world. Over the years, NSWP has conducted activities in partnership with other organizations, and the principle of the participation of sex workers in policy and programme development has been accepted at many levels.

Conference Location

The conference will be held in Swabhumi, on the Eastern fringe of Kolkata and sessions will run parallel in four auditoriums.

Reblogged from India Civil Society – Enabling Voices To Be Heard

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