Resolution on Women’s Movement : Challenges and Tasks

institutional credit, and charge exploitative interest rates, which combined with coercive loan recovery methods, have been found to push women into prostitution or the clutches of rapacious moneylenders to repay debts. More than 50 suicide cases have been recorded recently in Andhra Pradesh among MFI-linked women. Instead of ensuring women’s access to bank loans, governments focus only on microcredit for women, and have recently mooted the tokenist gesture of an all-women’s bank. Increasingly too, banks and corporates are using MFI networks to draw rural poor women into global circuits of exploitation and profit. We should not only intensify our struggle to make loans available to women through government banks, but also bring the MFIs under strict supervision and fixing of strict caps on the rate of interest they charge.

Political parties also try to use SHGs as vote-banks, doling out money to them at the time of elections, and using them to consolidate communal and caste-based mobilization. We need to campaign to alert the SHG women against being used to further such political agendas.

28. The global economic crisis has had an especially negative impact on women’s employment and lives in developing Asian countries like India. This is because women have a large share of jobs in the sectors that are worst hit by the crisis: textiles, garments, footwear and leather, electronics, hotels and restaurants, fisheries, and construction. When the global crisis happened in 2008, 700,000 clothing and textile workers in India lost their jobs, most of them women.

29. The entry of corporate retail has also hit women’s employment. Women who fail to find jobs in other sectors have usually found ‘refuge’ in petty retail trade (i.e small shops or street vending). But women’s share of employment in this sector has fallen sharply with the entry of big corporate players, and urban development policies of evicting informal vendors. With FDI in multi-brand retail, no doubt women in petty retail trade in both rural and urban India will be hit even harder, while women employees of global corporate retailers will bear the brunt of exploitative labour conditions.

30. As the economic crisis deepens, more and more women are compelled to enter into sex work as a means of survival in the absence of secure and properly paid work. As long as poor women remain deprived of secure, properly paid employment, many of them will have no other choice but to seek refuge in exploitative and dangerous sex work. A large number of sex workers in India are brought into sex work by force, kidnapping and violence. Women of some oppressed castes are also forced into sex work as a form of bondage; in the case of the devadasi system, this kind of sexual bondage is promoted by religious institutions. We must struggle for an end to forced sex work and to sexual bondage in the name of caste and religious traditions; for measures to protect women already engaged in sex work from coercion, exploitation, violence, and harassment; for social services and fullest citizenship rights (including the right to organize) for sex workers and their dependents; as well as secure, dignified employment for women to safeguard them from being compelled by circumstance to enter sex work, and equally, to make it genuinely viable for women to leave sex work.

31. While recognizing sex work as a key manifestation of the patriarchal relations which we are fighting to abolish, and as a particularly exploitative and demeaning form of work which emerges from unequal and distorted social relations rather than being in any way socially necessary, we must also recognise the demands for basic rights, respect and freedom from stigma which are currently being articulated by sex workers themselves. Clearly, the fact that sex workers are criminalized greatly increases the scope for their harassment and abuse.

We should also be aware however that full-scale decriminalization of the sex industry (as opposed to removing the liability for prosecution of sex workers themselves) in the Indian context is likely to lead to greater