“We have the right not to be ‘rescued’...”*: When Anti-Trafficking Programmes Undermine the Health and Well-Being of Sex Workers

Aziza Ahmed, Meena Seshu


This paper highlights the impact of raid, rescue, and rehabilitation schemes on HIV programmes. It uses a case study of Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), a sex workers collective in Sangli, India, to explore the impact of anti-trafficking efforts on HIV prevention programmes. The paper begins with an overview of the anti-trafficking movement emerging out of the United States. This U.S. based anti- trafficking movement works in partnership with domestic Indian anti- trafficking organisations to raid brothels to “rescue and rehabilitate” sex workers. Contrary to the purported goal of assisting women, the anti-trafficking projects that employ a raid, rescue, and rehabilitate model often undermine HIV projects at the local level, in turn causing harm to women and girls. We examine the experience of one peer educator in Sangli to demonstrate and highlight some of the negative consequences of these anti-trafficking efforts on HIV prevention programmes.


HIV/AIDS, sex work, trafficking, prostitution, health, India, anti-trafficking

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14197/atr.201219