Pandemic- Sex Workers’ Nightmare of Starvation & Deprivation

Sex Workers
Sex Workers Pic Courtesy: Google

The Covid-19 Pandemic Has Resulted In Starvation And Deprivation For Sex Workers By Triggering Violence! 

Sex workers do not execute their work in a sedative and secret way. No sex worker accomplishes the work alone. So why do we tag them as “whore” and “vulgar”? In the current pandemic, they have been completely left out and omitted from the reliefs of government, protection, and health services.

Thousands of sex workers, who are jobless as of now because of the lockdown, can’t nourish and look after their kids in this current predicament. According to a survey, 1.2 lakh sex workers in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, and Telangana had lost their livelihood. Approximately 1,15,374 sex workers have lost their source of earnings. Also, 33% of them do not have enough to fulfill three meals per day.

Due to continuous starvation and deprivation, many have returned to their home states. Over 60% of the sex workers in Delhi had gone back to their home states. Due to the Covid-19 outbreaks and imposed lockdown, sex workers are now struggling for food and basic needs. They are facing the hardships of lack of food, medicine, and most importantly, customers. The social distancing has forced them to remain at bay from their customers.

Surprisingly, the virtual world has been a blessing and become a temporary reassurance for them. Some are engaging themselves in one-on-one sessions with clients on WhatsApp and Telegram. Even video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet serve one type of additional aid to their monetary fiasco.

red-light area sex workers are back to their job with thermal guns, gloves, sanitizers, and masks. Shunned, neglected, deprived, and despised by the so-called sophisticated society, sex workers are now oppressed and fallen prey to human trafficking.

Because of a lack of technological knowledge, sometimes they are prone to extortion and deception for the shared photos or recordings. Their privacy and livelihoods are at stake now. That’s why the Supreme Court in September 2020 told the Centre and states to urgently consider their plight and render them dry rations, monetary assistance, masks, and sanitizers. 

Some social organizations reach them with helping hands. Even some NGOs are acquainting them to the smart use of the digital world like e-wallets. ICRSWE notes that sex workers have fallen as victims of the dark web of the pandemic. Sex workers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender have been thrown out of their families and are grappling with hopelessness and uncertainty. They are being forced to lead and manage their further days on debts from pimps or brothel owners.

According to the National Aids Control organization, of the total 7,76,237 sex workers in India, over 1,29,000 are from Maharashtra, Delhi, and West Bengal. So in these tough times, they are relying on loans with no means to repay shortly. Covid-19 has left sex workers shattered and broken. 

The criminalization of sex work in different countries ravages and destabilizes their hopes to remain equal with the mainstream of the population. They experience a lot of adversity and harassment due to the criminalization of sex work. It has exposed the inequality of social support systems worldwide.

They put their health and safety at risk to earn. Sex workers deliberately face sexual oppression, xenophobia, racism, and language barriers. By examining the current plight, the NSWP and UNAIDS have issued a joint statement to call for immediate and critical action to ensure their rights. They are under continuous threat of lack of national protection, financial support, and the trauma of neverending raids.

By supporting this noble cause, SWAN in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia has released a statement to urge all governments to prompt with necessary actions to counter and meet with this catastrophic failure.

Last but not least, no sex worker does the work alone. They need their companions. They need partners. Why do we appreciate them to the utmost importance and keep them in our homes? Why do biased and judgemental ideas reign over our minds? They are always perceived as vulgar creatures with hatred in our eyes.

At this point of crisis, they need our support and monetary assistance. They need national security and stability. They need assistance at the time of their need. How can we neglect a big chunk of the population who for their livelihood earn with dignity without choosing any deceitful activities?

-Sudipta Mishra

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