Women rights groups from across the country today joined hands here to oppose tooth and nail any move to 'legalise' prostitution. The agitating members including victims and survivors of sex trafficking, trade unions, political parties, NGOs of various social movements met with UN Women's Representative for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives, Rebecca Tavares here, to put forth their protest. "We demanded three things from UN Women. The first a sort of unofficial note which the UN Women is claiming was emailed to a whole bunch of NGOs," said Ruchira Gupta, Founder Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-sex trafficking NGO. The note, issued in October 2013 from the UN Women office in New York supports the "legalisation and decriminalisation" of brothel-keeping, pimping and sex-buying as part of an "overall legitimisation" of the commercial sex industry. "Since the note was not on official UN Women letterhead, UN Women claims it is an 'unofficial' document.
But this note remain an uncontested de facto official position of UN Women," Gupta claimed. The rights groups shed light on the fact that UNAIDS briefing on legal status of sex work (February 2014) cite the 'unofficial' UN Women note as a proof of agreement on efforts to promote legalisation of pimping, brothel-keeping, the industry of prostitution and decriminalising the entire sex trade. Gupta after meeting Tavares claimed that "The UN Women representative clearly said the UN mandate is to protect girls and women and work towards their development. The UN will not do anything that will be detrimental to the cause of the welfare and development of women. She (Tavares) said she will take up the issue with her colleagues at the UN." A letter addressed to Tavares, signed by representatives of all rights groups, was also submitted, asking for an official stance from UN Women on prostitution in alignment with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Protocol to end Trafficking in persons.