Flesh trade `flourishing' in State: study

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 26. Flesh trade is `flourishing' in Kerala with men and women taking to sex work to make easy money, causing concern over the `physical and moral health' of society, says a study.

The Kerala State AIDS Control Society study says that around 5,500 women and 3,400 men are `very actively' engaged in sex work in different parts of the State.

The Society's programme officer, Joe Joseph, said the five-year study project, `Partnership in sexual health', which would end this year, notes that sex workers in `God's own country' indulge in the trade in lodges, houses and streets. Unlike in other States, Kerala does not have brothel-based sex workers.

The study, conducted with the help of the international agency, TNS Mode, says the `call girl' system also has become `frequent' in major towns of the State with students and housewives being involved in it.

The maximum number of female sex workers is in the capital district (649), followed by Ernakulam (604), Idukki (580), Kozhikode (514) and Kollam (446), it says. The break-up for other districts is as follows: Alappuzha (297), Kannur (226), Kasaragod (224), Kottayam (353), Pathanamthitta (443), Thrissur (393), Wayanad (359), Palakkad (295) and Malappuram (162).

The average age of women involved in sex work has been found to be 32, of which 37 per cent are unmarried and another 29 per cent are women deserted by their husbands. Divorcees constitute 19 per cent, the study says.

The number of male sex workers is high in Ernakulam district (534), followed by Thiruvananthapuram (513), Thrissur (464), Kozhikode (376), Alappuzha (298) and Kollam (296).

Female sex workers have been identified in 428 small towns in the State with their daily `earnings' ranging from Rs. 50 to Rs. 500, the study says.

However, it says the `silver lining' is that diseases like AIDS have been found to be less in Kerala as compared to other States.

Mr. Joseph said there were around 70,000 HIV positive cases in Kerala and 1,519 reported AIDS cases.