Jaime Canizares, 2L, Legal Intern with Saheli Sex Workers Collective in India
Thursday, June 28, 2012
By Jaime Canizares
I am a 43-year old law student who will be starting my second year at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law this fall. As a former international human rights and humanitarian assistance field worker with the United Nations, I monitored human rights violations in Haiti and Angola, conducted trainings for law enforcement officials, and set up networks to assist victims of human rights violations. I also worked with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) managing a camp for Sudanese refugees in Chad. In Argentina, I was the Bolivia desk in officer where I oversaw the protection of refugees. When I decided to enter law school, I was particularly drawn to the David A. Clarke School of Law for its commitment to social justice and the clinical experience the school offers to students. I plan to return to the UN after graduation.
While in law school, I have wanted to combine my experience in international field work with my legal training.When I heard about Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sang (Saheli) I knew I wanted to work for this organization during the summer. Saheli is the only collective of sex workers in Pune, India. Its team of trained social workers provides all kinds of support services to about 3,500 sex workers in the city’s red light area. With the help of eight sex workers who are trained peer educators, the organization provides all kinds of assistance to their clients on issues ranging from use of condoms to how to deal with harassment and police brutality. One of the organization’s main goals is to stop the rate of HIV/AIDS infection and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among the sex workers. In the process, they are also helping the larger community by helping stop the spread of these diseases through the messages they pass on to the prostitutes. Saheli is also working to prevent the children of these prostitutes, especially their young daughters, from entering the sex trade.
As a legal intern, I am working on issues related to police harassment and brutality against prostitutes. I am working on two areas of intervention to stop the abuse committed against prostitutes. I am developing and preparing a legal training manual which will be used to train a group of peer educators (who are sex workers) and prostitutes about various aspects of the law regulating this trade.I am conducting legal research on the various statutes regulating sex trade in India, as well as the various penal laws in order to inform the sex workers about their legal rights and obligations. Through this training we also aim to provide the sex workers with the appropriate tools to deal with police brutality, extortion, and harassment committed against them. I am also procuring funding for this activity by developing funding proposals and seeking funding from various sources. Lastly, I am working with other law students on a possible litigation case involving the forced removal of a group of four prostitutes from a brothel.
So far I have learned a lot about sex workers in India as well as human rights issues that affect women around the world. As a future international human rights/refugee lawyer, this summer experience at Saheli has proven to be invaluable to my career.