What are Health challenges faced by female sex-workers in India?

There are more than 3 million sex workers in India. Most of them are HIV positive along with other mysterious health diseases. Sex workers have always been a fascinating topic to talk about! Most people are ashamed of putting their views across such topics. Even in the 21st century, sex worker women are perceived and seen with a disrespectful and pessimistic mindset. The most marginalized, and the deprived sector has been left independently to live their livelihood during this outbreak of a coronavirus pandemic. The entire offline sex worker industry has come down by 30-50% where the female sex workers have faced the bitter consequences to the maximum.

'Sex industry is the billion-dollar business industry'. Contributing to the maximum revenue, it just can't be stopped all of a sudden. Sex workers go through various traumatic experiences to earn their livelihoods. 

Poverty, empty pockets and exploitation, and impoverished socio-economical conditions let women be a part of this industry. 

But as per 'India Exclusion report, 68% of the women join the sex industry with their own will as a career choice.' 

Largest Red Light Area, India -

  • Itwari, Nagpur
  • Chaturbhujsthan, Muzaffarpur
  • G.B. Road, Delhi
  • Sonagachi, Kolkata
  • Shivdaspur, Varanasi
  • Budhwar Peth, Pune
  • Kamathipura, Mumbai
  • Meergunj, Allahabad 

Impact of Covid-19 on Sex Workers  - Sex Industry and its workers have been drastically affected by the covid 19. As per the research done by CNBC, -

  • More than 85% of female sex workers managed to take loans. Here, 95% has taken loans from their respective managers, owners, and money lenders which might lead to their further exploitation.
  • Fearing from catching corona, more than 92.7% of sex workers are trembled and panicking to resume back to their sex work career. On the contrary, they are afraid of dying from starvation and hunger if they didn't do so - as per the CNBC reports.
  • Flesh Trade has become a primary mode of survival for female sex workers due to lack of industrial skills and education and illiteracy. 
  • 87% of the female sex workers reported that the income they make by flesh trading in India wasn't enough for their survival even before corona. 
  • 68% of sex workers believe that even in the corona pandemic, the sex work will resume as it was going earlier in the months to come.
  • As per Shilpa Shetty - president of Asha Care Trust, women willing to start with their new chapters by leaving sex work behind must be encouraged by 'Trafficking victim relief fund' clearing off all of their debts. 
  • Due to the ongoing downfall in the offline sex industry because of the corona, NGO named 'Prerna,' has come up with the INR 10,000/- aid for each sex worker of Mumbai allowing them to take up new ideas and ways to earn their livelihoods. Also, as reported by the 'Mirror', this NGO takes care of the sex workers in keeping a check on them if they are capable enough to start their businesses.

What are the health challenges faced by sex workers in India?

Female sex worker goes through multiple hardships every day making it difficult for them to survive for long and feed their families. Let's look down below to understand the challenges faced by these sex workers.

  1. Sexually Transmitted Infections - Diseases like HIV are 13% more prone to happen to Sex-related workers as compared to the general public. This generally happens because of unprotected sex - not using condoms and other precautions. 80% of the workers' clients refuse condoms and sex worker agrees to it because the compensation for sex without protection is much higher than sex with protective measures, as reported. 
  2. In India & native Pakistan, the usage of condoms in 2017 was low - only 30% & 35.1%. 
  3. High Consumption of DRUGS -  Sex workers either voluntarily or forcefully made to have a high dose of drugs making them vulnerable to be put under bars in countries where sex work and drug consumption are banned. 
  4. In central Asia, sex workers who injected drugs suffered 20 times more from HIV than those who didn't! This led to deteriorate their health.
  5. Unwanted Pregnancy - Since 70% of sex all over the world is chosen to be done without taking precautions, these sex workers are put under big stress! Not using condoms can increase their chances of getting pregnant by coming in contact with multiple sex partners which is unhealthy and risky for a sex worker and an unborn baby as they both are prone to unwanted diseases and unsafe abortions.
  6. Physical and Mental Abuse/Violence - Sex Health Workers are treated like none less than a toy and puppets, getting used and thrown as per the client's will! Sounds pathetic, doesn't it? Sex workers are denied their legal and safety rights ( even from police) as a part of their citizenship. More than 60-70% of sex workers have been reported being beaten, threatened, abused, and tortured for who they are and what their profession is all about by clients, ordinary people, and even policemen themselves leading to anxiety and depression. This has heightened the need for the sex worker's safety. 
  7. Increase the Risk of Cancer - As per one of the studies conducted by 'BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health,' having more than 10 sexual partners can increase the risk of CANCER by 91% in women as compared to those who had 0 or 1 sexual partners during their lifetime.
  8. Permanent Infertility - A sex worker can be a victim of permanent infertility after getting in contact with multiple-demanding clients. They may develop infection inside their bodies, leading to unwanted diseases affecting their internal system who further can make them take years to get pregnant voluntarily.

Sex Industry Facts -

  • More than 30,000 sex workers die every year because of rape, sexual abuse, violence, malnutrition, health risks, and mental torture.
  • Victims of sex trafficking under the age of 10 were almost 30% in the year 2007-2008. 
  • In the Netherlands, as per one of the sex workers studies conducted in 2003, individual sex workers had the potential to earn as much as $250,000 annually.
  • 80% of the individuals working in the sex industry are within 24 years of age and the smallest age of sex trafficking victims is 6 years old.
  • Japan - holds a massive market for sex trafficking or Asian Women.
  • More than 7000 girls of nearly 9 years old from Nepal were sold to work in the red light district, India annually. The last decade witnessed the number of around 200,000 which is huge. 
  • The sex Industry contributes to $32 billion worth all across the world.
  • The sex industry is one of the largest criminal industries getting worse each year.

NGO working for Female Sex Workers in India-

  1. Kat-katha
  2. Prajwala 
  3. Kranti
  4. New Light 
  5. Anchal 
  6. Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee 
  7. Guria
  8. Threads of Freedom 

Till the time, solid actions and plans are being made to control sex trafficking and further harassments, the health of 1000's commercial sex workers will keep deteriorating for years to come. It may lead to an increase in suicidal cases and even natural death due to health issues possessed by sex workers in a few years to come. Certain norms and rules must come to picture to help sex workers get their legal rights and to not to get treated like a puppet.

References -






Image Source: Google Photos, for reference only.

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