Reeling under the massive economic crisis, women in Sri Lanka have been pushed to the wall with some, especially those in the texting industry, now shifting to prostitution as alternative employment over fears of being laid off.
With textile sector turning for the worse in the nearly collapsing Lankan economy, makeshift brothels are growing in numbers, sometimes posing as Ayurvedic spas, makeshift chambers of hung curtains, and makeshift beds to serve clients as women employed, till as late as January this year, in the textile industry sell sex to get by.
“We heard that we could lose our jobs due to the economic crisis in the country and the best solution we can see at the moment is sex work. Our monthly salary is around Rs 28,000, and the maximum we could earn is Rs. 35,000 with over time. But through engaging in sex work, we are able to earn more than Rs. 15,000 per day. Not everyone will agree with me, but this is the truth,” a report in Sri Lankan daily The Morning quoted one such sex worker as saying.
Apart from the latest report in The Morning’s, UK’s Telegraph has also earlier cited a 30 per cent surge in the number of women joining the sex industry in Sri Lanka’s Capital Colombo since January this year, highlighting a strong movement of women, who were earlier employed in the textile industry, from the hinterland to Colombo. Both reports have quoted Sri Lanka’s leading advocacy group for sex workers - Stand Up Movement Lanka (SUML) - on this figure.
SUML Executive Director Ashila Dandeniya said that these women are “desperate to support their children, parents or even their siblings”, adding that sex work is one of the “very few remaining professions in Sri Lanka that offers a lot of quick money”.
A major contributor to the shift towards sex trade is the extremely high inflation rate that has hit the wages in the textile industry hard. This, combined with the acute shortage of fuel, food and medicine, has pushed these women to resort to prostitution.
Reports also suggest that owing to acute scarcity of essential commodities, women are forced to exchange food, medicines for sex with the local shopkeepers.
According to the reports, sex trade was blooming in locations as close as the industrial zone close to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, allegedly under police protection and regulation.
Many such women are forced to sleep with police personnel by brothel madams in lieu of this protection, reports said.
Reports also mention that these women are forced to have unsafe sex at the insistence of clients, who range from academics to members of the mafia, as they have no other option with employment in agriculture, too, worsening.