A day dedicated to fighting exploitation and stigma faced by sex workers around the world, International Sex Workers Day is observed on June 2 every year. Amid the prolonged pandemic situation, sex workers are increasingly becoming more vulnerable and facing alienation. Getting basic health facilities have also become a big problem for them. On International Sex Workers Day, activists and groups supporting sex workers address myths, misconceptions and discrimination that marginalize the community who are a big chunk of the urban poor. Although sex work is not a crime in India, many sex workers face threats and harassment, making them vulnerable to increased violence.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, women sex workers are estimated to be 30 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women of reproductive age. Female sex workers also face an increased burden of blood-borne infections.
Studies have indicated that, “decriminalising sex work could lead to a 46 per cent reduction in new HIV infections in sex workers over 10 years”, and eliminating sexual violence against them could lead to a “20 per cent reduction” in new infections, says the WHO.
“We must reiterate our responsibility to: protect everyone, prevent all acts of GVB (gender-based violence) and ensure access to health services for all,” EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli said on International Sex Workers Day.
The success of our policies can be measured by how they impact those that are more vulnerable.
— Helena Dalli (@helenadalli) June 2, 2021
The WHO lists the following structural interventions prioritizing health issues targeting prevention of HIV among sex workers:
- Supportive legislation
- Policy and funding including decriminalization of sex work, same gender sex, etc.
- Addressing stigma and discrimination
- Accessible healthcare services
- Community empowerment
- Addressing violence