“RAIDED” Sangram, India, 2018 | Respect QLD

This research report was produced in India and looks at sex workers direct experiences of raids in their workplaces.

“Discussions on anti-trafficking measures have
often been overshadowed by debates on
prostitution per-se as violence and slavery of
women; and further muddied by a conflation with
sexual exploitation of children. Anti-trafficking
initiatives have been largely responsible for the
conflation of trafficking and sex work, leading to
an overriding conception of sex work itself as
‘violence’, ignoring the violation of the human
rights of sex workers and trafficked persons.”

The police, NGOs and others involved in ordering and conducting raids are
generally not sensitive to the complex trajectory of the individuals they encounter
during raids. The persistence of the ‘victim mode’ runs through the entire
enterprise, along with a refusal to listen to those who are purportedly being
rescued. Contrary to one of the usual justifications put forth for raids – minors in
sex work –, the research found that only a minuscule percentage of those raided
were minors. Additionally, the research revealed that an overwhelming percentage
of sex workers who had been picked up and ‘rescued’ in raids had returned to sex
work after release. The returnees to sex work included both those who had earlier
been trafficked as well as those who had entered sex work of their own volition.
Post-raid and rescue, many had returned to sex work at great risk to themselves,
given that they had signed undertakings that they would quit sex work.
The evidence from this study indicates that rescue and restore missions have not
only proven to be indiscriminate, violent, and destructive of invaded communities,
but have also been ineffective in addressing the problem of minors in sex work and
adult persons forced into sex work. Generations of police raids have not been able
to combat the menace of trafficking in persons.

The only light at the end of this dark tunnel comes from the collectives of vigilant
sex workers who are organizing themselves to root out the violence and abuse in
their own lives and that of minors and women trafficked into sex work. In any
community, the idea that a rescue can be orchestrated from the ‘outside’ using an
oppressive police force that incites violence rather than protection, compounds the
problem.

The strategy of raid and rescue without the participation of women in sex work
from that particular brothel or community offers no protection to the women
forced into sex work. This would perhaps be more evident if the voices of the
women at the center of the debate are amplified.

c. SANGRAM 2018

Download the full research report here