The removal of legal sanctions against sex workers by the Supreme Court of India in May 2022 was a major milestone following decades of determined advocacy by the SRHR community. Social norms and attitudes, however, take longer to change. Despite the change in law, discrimination against sex workers persists. As a result, sex workers face increased barriers to accessing services and legal aid.
Aastha Parivaar is an organisation in India working on HIV response and supporting the sex worker community to improve their knowledge and rights about sexual and reproductive health. Their AmplifyChange funded project organises sex worker groups for collective action and facilitates discussion about community needs. Using community-led interventions and strategies, the sex worker groups work together to address issues related to stigma and discrimination.
In this project, Aastha Parivaar worked with state and local stakeholders to set up legal centres in three locations to support sex workers with assistance in cases of discrimination, violence, harassment, and rights violations. By the end of the year, 215 female and transgender sex workers had accessed support through these centres. Further activities aimed at reducing community stigma towards sex work included sensitisation sessions with police, public cultural celebrations, and health camps where individuals could obtain SRH treatment, counselling, and prevention support.
As part of Aastha Parivaar’s focus on community building, they also provided development support to their nine partner organisations. Following a participatory process of reviewing current organisational practices, they worked with a consultant to help them build their management plans and skills. Aastha Parivaar also supported partners to submit funding proposals and hope they will now be able to apply for further funding with their improved internal systems.