CHENNAI: Many sex workers have taken up the profession voluntarily as it provides them with good income and enables them to make their own choices, said members from South India AIDS Action Programme (SIAAP) and Nirangal, an NGO, speaking on Monday at a discussion on ‘Sex work is work: Rethinking labour, consent and agency’.
The stigma around sex workers further marginalises them, said Shyamala Nataraj, founder of SIAAP. “State governments often claim to rescue sex workers from red light zones. If you follow the issue carefully, you’ll observe that the rescue will shortly be followed by a real estate venture in the area. The society uses morality as a tool to perpetrate corporatisation,” she charged, adding that while there is trafficking of women, all sex workers are not coerced by a cartel.
According to Shyamala, there are multiple push factors that make women take up sex work. Poverty, abandonment, lack of skill and domestic or occupational sexual abuse, are extremely common among sex workers’ past, she said.
“Nearly two-thirds of all sex workers worked in informal jobs. Most earned very little, while they faced abuse,” she said.
Neha (name changed), a sex worker from Madurai, said she was harassed multiple times by her superiors when she was working a construction worker and her husband was sick. According to Neha, sex work gave her power to make life decisions.
“Until I started earning enough, I did not have any power. Now even my relatives depend on me for money. I truly enjoy my job and am not ashamed of being a sex worker,” she asserted.
Rama (name changed), another sex worker, said “Even if I do domestic work in four houses, I will not earn more than Rs 10,000 , but I earn way more through sex work.