54 Percent of Sex Workers Silent on Abuse: Study

The researchers spoke to 10,618 female sex workers in four states over a year. Of them, 1,341 reported facing violence frequently.

Published: 30th July 2014 08:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2014 08:36 AM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: Over half of all female sex workers in Karnataka did not report abuse to the police in recent years, according to a survey.

The numbers were revealed in a study conducted by the Delhi chapter of Population Council, an NGO headquartered in New York.

condom_L.jpgThe study was published recently in a journal of the Public Library of Sciences called PLOS One, and was conducted in four states — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra — from 2009 to 2010.

Tamil Nadu tops the list with 67 per cent of its female sex workers not reporting violence or other atrocities being faced by them. Karnataka ranks second (54), followed by Andhra  Pradesh and Maharashtra (both 52 per cent).

The researchers spoke to 10,618 female sex workers of whom 1,341 reported facing violence frequently.

“About 6.3 per cent of the 1,341 faced violence six or more times. About 37 per cent faced violence two to five times,” said Niranjan Saggurti, researcher and member of the team that conducted the study.

More than a third of all the female sex workers had experienced violence from their clients.

Paying partners were mentioned as the main perpetrators of violence (54 per cent) followed by non-paying partners (21 per cent) and brokers (14 per cent).

Police, mandated to protect them, accounted for 12 per cent of the violence, according to Saggurti. Express did a reality check, and found the ground situation testifying to the study’s conclusions.

“Who do we report violence to? To policemen? They beat us with bats on the soles of our feet and thrust chilli powder into our vaginas. We get beaten by clients, pimps and policemen,” said Savita (name changed), a sex worker in Bangalore.

Clients facing charges of violence usually make counter charges of robbery or drug use.

“The policemen, more often than not, support them,” she said.

Darshana Mitra, a lawyer with Alternative Law Forum, said sex workers face violence from all quarters, including policemen.

“While a certain amount of violence meted out by policemen comes out in the open, violence by partners, clients and others never gets reported,” she said.

Addressing the violence is crucial to the success of HIV prevention programmes, says the study.

“More than half of the female sex workers who experienced violence did not disclose the incident to anyone and only one-fifth shared the experience with an NGO worker or peers,” it says.

Savita says support from NGOs has helped sex workers raise their voice. “We were educated about the fact that we were not doing anything wrong and could tell the authorities about the violence we face. Many sex workers in the city work on the streets and we ensure that they know about their rights,” she said.

Mitra feels the police need to be educated and sensitised, too. “Reporting violence sometimes leads to an increase in such incidents. Policemen get angry if a sex worker raises her voice,” she said.

The woman is then ridiculed and blackmailed to provide sex for policemen. This deters sex workers from approaching the authorities, she explained.

When Express contacted the Ashok Nagar police, they denied the accusations. “We arrest sex workers only when they face charges like robbery. We don’t beat them or assault them,” said a police officer who did not wish to be named.

When Express contacted ACP Chikpet sub-division, which has many areas under it where many are arrested for solicitation, he denied the allegations.

“Many sex workers create havoc in Majestic, Chikpet and surrounding areas. They harass passengers, bystanders and also shopkeepers. In such circumstances we arrest them. We only do our jobs and don’t beat them up.” He added that if any body complained to them about harassment, they would take action.


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