NSWP mourn the passing of a leader in the fight for sex workers' rights, Manjula Ramaiah. Manjula passed away in June from COVID-19 complications.
Manjula was a strong leader and frontline worker who founded sex worker community networks and served on the board of several key organisations as a champion for the human rights of sex workers and those living with HIV.
Manjula built Ashodaya Samithi with the community of sex workers in Mysore. This sex worker collective of female, male and transgender sex workers organised across six districts of Karnataka, India now has a membership of over 8000 sex workers and works with key stakeholders to address the violation of the human rights of sex workers and advocate strongly for the decriminalisation of sex work and equitable access to health and social service.
A strong voice for the sex worker rights movement, Manjula also served as a sex worker representative on APNSW Management Committee, APN+ Board, GNP+ Board and NSWP Board.
Described by those who knew her best as a ‘harbinger of hope’, Manjula was a woman who changed thousands of lives by bringing about policy changes and making possible funding for advancing the lives of women who have been marginalised. She was a fierce treatment activist, advocating for sex workers living with HIV to receive ART and was instrumental in Ashodaya Samithi’s PrEP demonstration project, which showed that community-led PrEP delivery can be effectively integrated into existing HIV prevention and care services for sex workers and result in high retention and adherence.
Manjula was a passionate activist who relentlessly pursued the fight against inequality and believed strongly in securing the rights of her peers. She will be deeply missed as a community leader and as a friend.