New Delhi: In breakthrough data survey, four organisations working with trafficked women and sex workers have released a report which states that close to 77% women voluntarily return to sex work after their rescue into shelter homes.
The groups, spearheaded by the National Network for Sex Workers Association (NNSWA) and UMKO, Saheli – HIV/RAIDS Karyakarta Sangh, SANGRAM and Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), have released a report “Raided – How Anti-Trafficking Strategies Increase Sex Workers’ Vulnerability to Exploitative Practices.”
According to ‘Raided’, 79% of the women documented in the study returned to sex work - ‘escaping’ their rescue from shelter homes, while almost 11% of the women continued to live in these homes.
Kusum, President, All India Network of Sex Workers explained the ‘horrific’ condition of shelter homes and why women want to escape it.
“Have the people who want us to go and live in these homes ever been to one? The conditions are horrible. Look at what happened in Muzaffarnagar and Devariya recently. There is no food to eat, and when there is food it is insect infested which makes people sick. No health care to take care of inhabitants. And no support for HIV persons who require ART (antiretroviral therapy) and even if that was provided the stigma that exists towards HIV persons within these homes is bad enough to kill someone well before their time,” said Kusum.
In what appears as a major breakthrough, the report contests the rational of joining this industry. It opposes the present understanding that most women in the flesh trade are trafficked women ‘pushed into prostitution’.
The survey which spans from 2005 to 2017 documents the cases of 243 women who were taken to shelter homes in accordance with Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act. 51% of these women were in the age group of 21 to 30 years at the time of rescue.
“Now almost 168 women have returned to sex work, and only 18 are not traceable after release from the rescue homes,” notes the report.
Devi from the National Network of Sex Workers states that the rescue homes serve the exact opposite purpose for which they are meant to be established. These homes manifest an environment of isolation and deprive the women of identity and income.
In most cases, a women takes up sex work voluntarily, predominantly, to escape poverty. After being rescued into shelter homes, a woman working as a sex worker loses her source of income. This leaves her entire family starving, in addition to being at the receiving end of social abuse and banter.
“The women lose communication with their families and the outside world. The families and community finds out that they are sex workers and shun them. And the conditions are terrible. Many of these women have children and no partner to take care of them so while they are inside, the kids suffer tremendously. We have heard of many children having to go through abuse without their mothers to protect and provide for them,” said Devi.