KOCHI: Fifty-five-year-old Laila (name changed) is a street-based sex worker. Earlier, she used to be an agent who arranged girls for clients. As she belonged to the last-grade category of sex workers, she could hardly get clients for herself. But much to her surprise, things brightened up as the state started witnessing a heavy influx of migrant labourers.
Now many like Laila are constantly working on their time-schedule to meet their swelling clientele.
Migrant labourers now form a major portion of their clients, says Akhil Prakasam, project manager, Suraksha project of Kerala State AIDS Control Society, Kozhikode. “It is the long, extended stay of migrant labourers in the state and the less money charged by the sex workers that have triggered the trend. They might charge less money, but the number of labourers frequenting them has increased. Thus they get more than enough money,” he said.
Laila also confirms that they now earn sufficient money as more migrant labourers are approaching them. “We charge `300 onwards. The rates are hiked depending upon the person,” she said.
Three years ago, the scenario was different. The sex workers were not interested in migrant labourers even if they were promised a huge amount, explains Dennis Joseph, joint director (target intervention) KSACS. “Earlier, migrant workers were regarded as absolutely alien and given the cold shoulder. After a few years, things have changed as you can see them in every nook and cranny. Now they form a major portion of their client base,” he said.
Sex workers, as far as the state scenario is concerned, fall into different categories - street-based, lodge based/ hotel based, home-based and highway truck-based.
“Except the first, the others are discreet. Street-based sex workers belonging to the lowest category have always found difficulty in luring clients,” says Laiji Jacob, project manager, Santhwanam, Ernakulam.
“Though street-based sex workers are registered with the KSACS and given counselling, they readily agree to have a roll in the hay without precautions. This accentuates the trouble,” Laiji said. Hence the incidences of HIV among sex workers are steadily rising.
Abhilash Babu, migrant project manager, Hope Foundation, Thrissur said, the sex workers go to construction sites and areas where migrant labourers work in bulk. Earlier, they even targeted houses where migrant labourers lived in groups. But that turned sour when they had to cater to different demands in the same house. Hence, they started frequenting construction sites and bus stands. Some autorickshaw drivers also help them to connect with the labourers,” he said.
According to a KSACS official, the incidences of HIV in migrant labourers are on the rise. To avoid contracting HIV, the sex-workers should insist clients on safe and protected sex and use condoms.
(To be continued)