Staff Reporter

They also need night shelters for children, de-addiction centres

PUDUCHERRY: A study among commercial sex workers in the Union Territory highlights the need for inclusion of livelihood support through micro credit, counselling, night shelters for their children, de-addiction centres and creating awareness among the legal fraternity, including the police force in the intervention programmes of government and private agencies.

Objective

The study, which was conducted among 250 sex workers for a period of nine months, by the Puducherry-based Society for Development Research and Training (SfDRT) was conducted with the objective of identifying the obstacles in the implementation of intervention programmes and assess the mental health of these women. Out of those studied, 200 were from Puducherry and others from Kodambakkam in Chennai. Out of the 250 respondents, 162 have reported to have negative feelings and depression. The reasons for negative feelings and depression, correlates with loss of sleep, low self esteem and self worth, feeling of loneliness and isolation from family members. Majority of them find it financially difficult too.

Of the surveyed, 193 of them are not officially married, living with multiple partners, and the remaining were married, widowed or separated. Most of them prefer to have a partner for security to run the "business" and not willingly entangled with marriage systems, Shyamala Ashok, Director, SfDRT, said while releasing the results here on Thursday. "Though these women are abused and physically assaulted by the partners they prefer to have a partner," she said.

The study also reveals that about 92 per cent of them need continued medication to sustain their life. Around 27 per cent of the surveyed have symptoms of sexually transmitted disease or allied problems and one woman had HIV. The organisation wanted the Government to integrate the programmes of the Ministry of Women and Child with the interventional programmes for the commercial sex workers. Livelihood programmes and savings would break their need to seek sex work as the only alternate means of sustenance.

Most of the commercial sex workers have children and were concerned about their future.

There was an urgent need to have more homes, which could take care of educational and nutritional needs for their children.

The study also recommended de-addiction centres as majority of them either depend on alcohol or drugs to overcome stress and relieve pain. More sensitisation programmes should be conducted among the police force, she said.