As much as 68 per cent of women sex workers in India entered the profession ‘voluntarily’, due to factors such as lack of education and poverty, according to a recent survey. Seventeen per cent of the women surveyed had entered the profession because of their relatives, husbands or other persons, it revealed.
The survey was conducted by Sarvojana Coalition — an NGO that works towards the empowerment of sex workers — and was conducted from September to November 2019 across the three states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. At least 1,000 sex workers were surveyed under an ongoing reproductive and sexual health project, funded by AmplifyChange and South India AIDS Action Programme (SIAAP).
In Maharashtra, Saheli Sangh, a collective of sex workers based in Pune, was the focus of the survey.
While sharing the survey’s findings, Tejaswi Sevekari of Saheli Sangh told mediapersons on Tuesday that female sex workers remained marginalised in terms of access to healthcare services.
Flexibility of time (69 per cent) and higher earnings than other professions (60 per cent) were among the major reasons many sex workers continued with the work, revealed the survey.
A state-wise perusal of the study findings shows that sex workers from Karnataka reported the highest incidence of violence (94 per cent), while 5 per cent of the sex workers surveyed in Pune said they have faced violence.
Across the three states, 67 per cent of sex workers said they seek treatment from private medical practitioners for chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
According to 6.4 per cent of the sex workers surveyed, there was no privacy in government health centres to speak freely or seek treatment regarding sexual and reproductive health issues. The study also found that a significant majority of sex workers — 92 per cent — suffer from mild mental health issues, but no treatment facilities were available specifically for them.
On the basis of these findings, Saheli Sangh, along with its partners in the two other states, will work towards strengthening effective dialogue and positive programmes in collaboration with private and government healthcare providers.
“We will also share the survey report with the Indian Medical Association, to help Saheli Sangh and sex workers receive stigma-free treatment on sexual and reproductive health issues, and mental health issues,” said Sevekari.
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