Ten workers were rounded up near Upparpet police station and detained for 4-5 hours on October 26. The women were allegedly told they would be moved to a shelter home as per an order received from their higher-ups. “It was 6pm and I was out for work… the personnel in a Hoysala car identified me as a sex worker and forced me to come with them to the station,” Pooja (name changed) said.
On arriving at the station, she found four more girls had been detained and confined to a toilet in the office. “I am not sure if they had been beaten up, but they looked scared and were crouched up inside the toilet,” she added.
According to the sex workers, the call for detaining them was triggered after one of their clients’ valuables had gone missing. The women said without verifying under what circumstances the valuables had been robbed, they were rounded up for questioning. “Though the SC order in May 2022 states that sex workers must be treated with dignity and no action must be taken against them by police for engaging in consensual sex work, the workers were being threatened with rehab,” Geetha M, social worker with Sadhana Mahila Sangh, told STOI.
Some of the detained women protested the police’s call to move them to a shelter. “If we are moved into these places without our consent, who will take care of our children? We do not need any shelter, we have our homes and families. This is nothing but harassment,” Pooja said.
According to Sadhana Mahila Sangh, harassment and cornering of sex workers is continuing in the city. Surekha (name changed) was beaten up on August 21 by a police officer for no particular reason. She filed a complaint with Upparpet police but no action has been taken yet.
Laxman Nimbargi, DCP (west), denied any threats of rehabilitation were issued. “The public called our emergency number to report some nuisance in Majestic area, and based on that, police had brought them to the station.”