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Covid lockdown push sex workers into 'debt traps'

Wednesday, 30 June 2021 (18:02 IST)
Vijayawada:The Covid lockdown adversely affected several low-income households, including sex workers, and has pushed them into 'debt traps'.
According to an analysis done by Tafteesh & HELP organisation recently, 335 survivors of human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation and sex workers from West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh has found that 201 or 60 per cent of them have taken some loan at a time of this study in May 2021 to cope with their financial difficulties created by the pandemic and lockdown.
The Covid-19 hardships hit the lives of sex workers across the country, the study said.
The same situation of sex workers prevails in Andhra Pradesh as well.A total of 120,000 sex workers in Andhra Pradesh have been in the brink of 'starvation' for the past two years.
To overcome the situation, they were depending on the private loans and were stuck in debts for the same period.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued an Advisory directing governments to provide sex workers with dry rations, financial assistance, and transportation facilities for stranded people, masks and sanitizers besides health counselling.
The NHRC also stated that all rights and entitlements available to 'workers' of India may be extended to sex workers, through an explicit advisory to this extent.
The Supreme Court, too, has instructed all state governments to distribute free ration to the sex workers along with the benefits provided to all other categories during lockdown period under COVID relief support services.
A recent survey was conducted by Vimukthi, a Community Based Organization of sex workers and survivors of trafficking, and 'HELP', a human rights organisation finds that 90 percent of sex workers have been pushed into debt traps, wherein they have taken loans from multiple MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions) and private money lenders.
The survey was part of multi-state survey on economic impact of lockdowns on survivors of human trafficking and sex workers.Vimukthi’s data is based on 500 sex workers from Prakasam, Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.
According to the survey that collected data from 142 sex workers, reveals that during COVID first wave a total of 116 sex workers have taken loans of which 99 percent are still indebted to money lenders and are continuing with their debts.
They borrowed on an average Rs 52,350 from a minimum of Rs 5,000 to a maximum of Rs 4,30,000.
From a total of 142 people, of whom 70 per cent were in debt, some of them have taken more loans during the second wave. Loan amounts in this period ranged from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,50,000.
The debt amounts were spent for food and large sums of money was spent on Covid- treatments in private hospitals, because treatment in government hospitals was inaccessible.

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