Andhra Pradesh: Sex workers want to join main stream

68% of sex workers in State are involved in domestic prostitution & 16% lack alternative income sources: Survey
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VIJAYAWADA: Exploring the post-Covid impact on victims of commercial sexual exploitation and survivors of trafficking in the State, a study titled ‘Emerging into Light’ conducted by an NGO named ‘HELP’ of Andhra Pradesh revealed that significant majority of commercial sex workers (CSW) expressed the desire to transition out of the sex work industry.

Data showed that 67% of CSWs have wanted to leave their profession for the last 1-3 years, 19% for the last 4-5 years, 8% for more than 5 years, and 6% for less than 1 year.

The study found that 68% of CSWs in the State are involved in domestic prostitution, underscoring the need for tailored interventions. Various social, familial, and economic factors influence CSWs’ decisions to stay in the profession.

About 36.67% face family and economic challenges hindering their exit. Additionally, 28% fear inadequate government support post-exit, 16% lack alternative income sources, and 14.67% lack the requisite job skills.

Understanding parenthood dynamics among CSWs is crucial for developing targeted interventions promoting parental and child well-being.

Around 86% of sex workers have children, where 42% of these are aged 10-15 and 9% below nine. While only 55% attend school, others lack formal education.

High dropout rates stem from mothers’ night work exhaustion, hampering support for children’s education. First-generation learners struggle academically due to lack of supervision.

G Jagdish Kumar, Social Development Consultant leading the study, highlighted a significant gap in awareness among CSWs about government rehabilitation schemes, with only 22% aware of such programmes. Willing to come out of flesh trade, CSWs have been seeking diverse rehabilitation measures. While 26.1% of CSWs are urging for livelihood support, 15.16% want stigma reduction and 14.37% seek financial aid.

Other desired measures include skill training and social security. The study also highlighted the profound impact of marital discord and family instability on women’s entry and continuation in the profession.

Gode Prasad, a Social Development Consultant who participated in the study, noted that 82% of survivors rely on rental housing, emphasising the urgent need for stable housing solutions and addressing broader socioeconomic factors contributing to housing insecurity.

This underscores the need for educational interventions to empower individuals and mitigate risks associated with exploitation and trafficking.

HELP Secretary Nimmaraju Rammohan highlighted a holistic approach to supporting sex workers.

“Economically, rights-based programmes should offer flexible vocational training and extra income opportunities without mandating exit from the industry. Legally, amending The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, NHRC directions, and Supreme Court judgments (Prompt and lawful action by police when sex workers report criminal, sexual, or other offenses) to decriminalise sex work will provide benefits and protections. Socially, education and rehab facilities for victims and their children are crucial, along with sensitisation programmes to reduce stigma. Ensuring non-discriminatory access to essential services will safeguard their rights, fostering societal change,” he told TNIE.

Speaking to this newspaper, Women’s Commission Chairperson Gajjala Venkata Lakshmi affirmed the panel’s support for sex workers seeking to leave their profession and reintegrate into society.

She mentioned plans to collaborate with the Women Development and Child Welfare Department for training programmes, empowering them as entrepreneurs while providing rehabilitation. Moreover, counselling services will be offered and will consider assigning a dedicated officer to address their needs.

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The New Indian Express