LALIT hails the birth in 2015 of a new association to join the family of self-run associations in Mauritius: an association of sex workers called Parapli Rouz. Sex workers are perhaps the sector most oppressed and exploited of all work sectors in Mauritius, while at the same time, as individuals, sex workers are made to bear the brunt of so many of the “psycho-socio-sexual problems” of our society as a whole.
We would also like to congratulate members of Parapli Rouz, who spoke so frankly, eloquently and humanely, on the MBC TV program on the issue of sex work some months back. In particular, we found the speakers’ generosity towards a society that is, in general, so hostile towards sex workers, a real example to us all. We also take our hats off to the high-level rationality employed in the argumentation. Again, it is a lesson for us all.
LALIT, many of our web visitors may not know, was perhaps the very first organization in Mauritius to draw attention to the plight of women in this sector. LALIT and the Muvman Liberasyon Fam began to address the issue in 1976-7. In 1978, three of our members, together with the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, brought together a small group sex workers, most working at Golden, to defend themselves, in terms of protection from sexually transmitted diseases, for a start. LALIT has also, since the death in detention of Serge Victorine in 1979, been in the forefront of the struggle to expose and stop violence by officers of the State, including in relation to sex workers. We also drew attention to the forced prostitution that was a hidden part of the mass emigration of the 1970s and early 1980s. In general, in LALIT, we believe that repression is rarely, if ever, the answer to social problems. In the case of sex workers, it is not the job of the State to punish the women, and men, in this work.
We support Parapli Rouz in all their struggles. In their words, ‘Sex workers are often denied public services and experience institutional discriminations daily. The police force regularly arrest sex workers for condom possession or for walking the streets at night. Sex workers are then charged with criminal offenses such as “soliciting for immoral purposes” or “indecent act in public”. The police force often threaten sex workers to plead guilty at Court. Sex workers are often victim of work related violence; which they are unable to report to the police for they will be charged for “soliciting”.’ All this must change.
We agree with Parapli Rouz that ‘Repression against sex workers is not stopping them from working. Repression is only pushing sex workers further on the verge of society, forcing them to hide, refraining them to report real crimes such as rape and violence.’ We also agree with them that ‘efforts should be invested in stopping human trafficking and other forms of non consensual prostitution rather than harassing consenting adults from providing paid sexual services. We also believe that policies needs to be reviewed to provide a safer work environment for sex workers. This will benefit sex workers, their families and society at large.’
LALIT has written a letter to Parapli Rouz, expressing our support for their work.