Human rights of sex workers in Bangladesh should be protected and promoted according to CEDAW recommendations. This is opined in a discussion meeting arranged by HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre (HARC) on Monday at the organisation's Khilgaon premises in Dhaka.
HARC is a community led organisation working for female sex workers in Bangladesh. Training on HIV/AIDS related health issues has been arranged by the organization involving sex worker's leaders, physicians and development workers. In the last session of the training an open discussion took place among the participants.
Bangladesh ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1984 and has submitted seven progress reports on its implementation and participated in meetings of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. According to the women leaders in Bangladesh the women in Bangladesh are much more empowered and meaningfully involved in many sectors in the economy and in the country. On the other hand, according to women sex workers no changes happened in their lives.
The sex worker leaders mentioned that they had no prior knowledge regarding CEDAW before HARC the CEDAW trainings. They also mentioned that in Bangladesh discrimination is very strong against sex workers. Another sex worker leader said, "I attended one CEDAW training in Nepal and that's how I learned about CEDAW, however, when I talked about CEDAW with other sex workers none of them knew about it." Due to intense discrimination towards sex workers, they often feel a lack of ownership to the programs, having little to no meaningful involvement in the project activities. This also makes movement for their rights, or mobilization of sex workers very difficult at times.
One peer outreach supervisor mentioned that they have very little tools to fight against the discrimination that they face daily. Many sex workers don't receive clinical services properly because of stigma and discrimination and they involve self-medication. They believe that it is better to risk self-medication than having to go through stigma.
All of those sex worker's leaders mentioned that women sex workers must be included in CEDAW. They need more trainings to improve the knowledge and skills on CEDAW for meaningful involvement and advocacy. They also want full implementations of CEDAW in Bangladesh. They demand for sex work to be decriminalized based on CEDAW recommendations. It is also urgent to clarify the law on trafficking and sex work and make progress there.