In this episode of Ganetheya Dudimegagi Navu Manushyaru, Salma and Rathna speak about the support and guidance sex workers need when faced with violence at work and at home.
Violence often starts at home. Many sex workers struggle with the reality of their husbands being unemployed, alcoholics, jealous, and abusive. This reality pushes the women out of their homes and to seek sex work as a means to survive. In the course of this work, they end up facing more abuse, this time from the police who shove them about when soliciting for customers. Awareness among the police officers, though, has risen from earlier.
Finding a home for themselves and their children is no easy task, either. Few home-owners like having single mothers and their children as tenants. So, they are often forced to get a male friend to pose as their husband. This partner then starts acting as the husband for real, even when they have another legal family of their own. “These men then proceed to torture the sex workers, taking their money to support their other family. If these women have daughters, then there is the risk of them being sexually abused as well.”
The next level of violence comes from the street ruffians they encounter when these workers stand to pick up clients. These men observe the workers’ patterns to rob and rape them. The clients get violent as well, often endangering the sex workers by taking them to unsafe places, beating them, and robbing them.
As a step towards their safety, Sadhana suggests that an FIR must be lodged every time a sex worker is arrested. “Usually, they don’t file FIRs and just ask for money. Worried about their situation, the sex workers just pay up with whatever they have.”
Salma believes that women wouldn’t be interested in getting into sex work if they could work as domestic workers or construction workers, but the fact is that when they go for work they are misused in these places as well. “Once, an officer had tried to suggest that HIV levels are rising because of sex workers. We had to step in and reveal the actual facts.”
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