Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted among 70 female sex workers involved in DMSC in 2008 and 2009. Interviews were conducted in Bengali and Hindi, the subjects' native languages. Subjects were recruited using convenience sampling methods through DMSC's membership list. Documents published by DMSC were analyzed QSR N6 was used to analyze the data.
Results: We found that the police utilize the ITPA to: 1) arbitrarily arrest sex workers who support families with their earnings, 2) arrest cohabitating “babus” (contextual husbands), and sex workers' children, and 3) conduct raids into the community to rescue underage sex workers. We found that being forced to have unprotected sex with the police to secure their release increased the HIV risk environment for sex workers and their family members. To counteract the coercive implementation of the ITPA, DMSC participants 1) engage in systematic collective action strategies to force the release of arrested community members, 2) displace the police from the role of guardians of underage sex workers by establishing a procedure for preventing their exploitation, and 3) enter into negotiations with police officials by ensuring their participation in a community action board that meets regularly. The results indicate that by establishing a methodical mobilizational process, a systematic procedure for protecting underage children, and a regular forum for communication with the police, DMSC has systematized its HIV risk reduction strategies in response to police action based on the ITPA.
Conclusion: The findings have important implications for legal and policy interventions to reduce HIV risk in sex work communities. We argue that liberal feminist strategies in India that sought to change laws have had dire consequences for women on the streets, specifically for the HIV risk environment confronting sex workers. Structural interventions intended to reform policy in order to reduce HIV risk need to address issues surrounding the street-level implementation of policy. Moreover, reforming laws like the ITPA necessitate resources that community-based programs such as DMSC may not have access to. DMSC's response to the arbitrary implementation of the ITPA, constitute a street-level intervention model that re-formulates the coercive implementation of policy.