Baina beach demolitions: What about the sex worker’s right to shelter?
By Rakesh Shukla
Acting on orders by the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court, around 250 huts belonging to sex workers, on Goa’s Baina beach, were bulldozed in an effort to ‘clean up’ Goa. ‘Operation Monsoon Demolition’ appears to have been based on the assumption that sex workers have no right to shelter
This year, the rains that bring joy to millions of people in India brought only grief to the residents of Baina beach in Goa. Carrying an order by the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court, for the identification and demolition of 250 huts being used by sex workers, the state government set about bulldozing hundreds of hutments right in the midst of heavy rains lashing the area.
The rationale: The restoration of an ‘unspoilt Goa’ by cleansing it of the ‘sin’ of prostitution.
The huts are the homes of women who have been living here for the past 40 years. They have valid ration cards, voter identity cards, electricity bills and tax receipts as proof of their being bonafide residents of Baina; their children attend schools in the area. In fact, many children born in Baina are, today, vote-casting adults. Now, attempts are being made to class them as ‘outsiders’ from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and send them back once their homes have been demolished.
Using the ‘outsider’ bogey as the cause of all ills and whipping up chauvinism is a populist strategy often used by unscrupulous politicians. Like the Shiv Sena campaign ‘Maharashtra for Maharashtrians’ in the ’60s-’70s, there have been similar campaigns all over the country including Goa. Displaying remarkable foresight, the Constitution of India -- under Articles 19 (1) (d) and (e) -- specifically guarantees, as a fundamental right, the right ‘to move throughout the territory of India’ and the right ‘to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India’.