The Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), a sex-worker led organization has extended support to students protesting at JNU in Delhi.
In a letter to the students on the eve of student leader Kanhaiya's release on Thursday, the collective said "Salute! Jai Bhim! Laal salam! We will win this war against sedition! March 3rd, International Sex workers Rights Day, Zindabad!"
It went on to add:
We write from the sex worker’s rights movement to hail your struggle and to add to the discourse you have sparked. We would like to discuss why using the term sex worker in the alleged pamphlet in JNU on Mahishasura Martydom Day is a concept fraught with the Whore Stigma. The use of the politically correct sex worker instead of the commonly used `prostitute’ does not take away from the fact that it is used to depict an insalubrious deed. The use of this term has only led to more misunderstandings of the term itself.
It then outlines the incident where a pamphlet was produced in the Parliament by Union HRD minister Smriti Irani, who said that it contained unspeakable and offensive material on Durga Puja as "a sex worker called Durga was hired, who enticed Mahishasura into marriage and killed him after nine nights of honeymooning, during sleep."
The minister asked for forgiveness from her god to even utter the words as printed in the pamphlet. The use of the politically correct term sex worker and the use of the words like enticed and honeymoon to depict sexual exchange are the reason for the chocked anger of Ms. Irani. Would it have been better for the pamphlet not to have used the term sex worker? Because I cannot see what else the minister could have to ask forgiveness for, a fair skinned woman enticing Mahishasur and killing him is a well-accepted concept among the tribals, whether the woman was Durga is unclear.
The letter then continues to outline more incidents where sex workers were mentioned by various people commenting on the JNU incident and says that "This constant reference to sex work and women in sex work in particular is made to stigmatise and put down the woman it is describing. It is used to depict sleaze, disgust, distaste and revulsion. Mere use of the politically correct term has not taken away the whore stigma attached to the term `prostitute’ if it is used to divide women into the `good and the bad’."
We also demand Azadi!
Azadi from discrimination, azadi from the violence of a judgemental attitude, azadi from the multiplicity of injustice meted out to sex works, Azadi from the loose use of the politically correct but deeply stigmatised use of the term sex worker.
Read the full text of the letter here.