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Sex Work and its Implications

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

In many cases, stigmatization prohibits sex workers from receiving sufficient health care, forcing them to use alternative means such as visiting unsanitary clinics or avoiding treatment.

In our society, sex work and prostitution have long been chastised and vilified. Female prostitution is thought to be the oldest occupation on the planet. Unfortunately, it also happens to possibly be the most despised profession. In addition, prostitution is viewed differently in different communities due to culturally defined ideals.

How does Society Perceive Prostitution?

Sex work and prostitution have been considered part of a recognized profession in some civilizations, while they have been shunned, hated, and punished with stoning, jail, and death in others. Some communities have treated the clientele who frequented such establishments with the same severity; however, in most societies, clients face few, if any, punishments.

Prostitution is often considered as a last resort before destitution and is believed to be practiced more often out of coercion rather than choice. The distinction between prostitution and sexual exploitation is made by determining whether prostitution is delivered as a sex service or under conditions of compulsion or force. It is generally accepted that women would refrain from abusing their bodies if they had a choice. Because sex work is not considered a legitimate source of income for a woman, women involved in the industry are assumed to have experienced some sort of economic, or mental trauma or hardship that led them to pursue such a career. Prostitutes face a significant danger of suffering severe bodily and psychological assault, as well as the possibility of death.

Women who participate in this industry are also frequently rejected or abandoned by their biological families, as well as left or abandoned by their spouses. Sex workers are left to support each other financially, intellectually, physically, and emotionally in such situations.

In many cases, stigmatization prohibits sex workers from receiving sufficient health care, forcing them to use alternative means such as visiting unsanitary clinics or avoiding treatment. The establishment of informal tolerance zones surrounding city outskirts and industrial complexes has led to sex workers being physically ejected from certain countries where sex work is criminalized. Furthermore, during their school years, children of sex workers are frequently ridiculed and secluded.

How can We as a Society help?

The universal nature of human rights should be advocated keeping in mind that the rights of sex workers are human rights as well. On a judicial level, when it comes to designing sex work policies and programs, sex workers must be at the forefront.

When it comes to sex work, however, social workers, and organizations frequently use the rescue model. The rescue model is based on the concept of a "fallen lady," which is still influenced by obsolete religious and moral standards.

Rather than embracing the rescue paradigm, which is disempowering and oppressive to sex workers, social workers should embrace the social justice and human rights approach that recognizes sex workers' agency and advocates their rights as persons.

At Snehalaya, we offer assistance to women, children, and LGBT communities affected by poverty and the commercial sex industry. We help to fight HIV and AIDS and to end human trafficking, improve education for deprived children, and campaign for justice to bring rescue, rights, and rehabilitation to those that need it. Through our sex worker outreach projects, we provide sex workers with health, legal and emotional support, identity papers, and counseling and support to those who wish to start a new life. Due to our interventions, we have dramatically reduced HIV and STD transmission through 100% condom usage and prevented underage and second-generation sex work.

We have given sex workers a voice, helping them to tell their stories and advocate for their communities at the local, national, and international levels as well as the highest level of our own organization with two sex workers permanently serving on our Board of Trustees since day one. Our programs like Snehadhar, Sneha Saksham, Caring friends Hospital and Snehbandhan are the result of our efforts towards empowering the female sex workers in India.

People from every stratum of society have the ability to affect change by assisting marginalized people in achieving self-determination and empowerment, as well as promoting a more socially just society for all of us.

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