COVID plays havoc with livelihoods of sex workers

SHILLONG: With social distancing being one of the imperative protocols issued by the Centre, the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered sex workers across the country unemployed.
Struggling to eke out a living, the sex workers have either left the profession or are on the hunt for jobs, while some have even resorted to taking loans, a statement said on Tuesday.
According to a survey conducted by Asha Care Trust, a forum that works towards the welfare of sex workers, over 85 per cent of the sex workers have taken loans and over 98 per cent of them have taken it from their brothel owners, managers and moneylenders, subjecting themselves to further exploitation.
“What is more alarming is that 87 per cent of workers stated that even before the pandemic struck, their incomes were not sufficient to support themselves or their families. Key factors like lack of education and employable skills compel them to depend on one source of income, which is earning through flesh trade and remain trapped in the vicious circle. Majority of the workers now want to explore alternative sources of livelihood and get away from flesh trade,” the statement said.
A study of 300 (around 10 per cent) commercial sex workers in Budhwar Peth was conducted for this report.
Budhwar Peth happens to be India’s third-largest red-light area that nearly houses 700 brothels and around 3,000 commercial sex workers.
During the survey, it was found out that while 68 per cent believe that the flesh trade will pick up in the days to come, 99 per cent believe they will take up any alternative livelihood option, if given an opportunity.

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