With no Andhra Pradesh govt help, lockdown likely to spur trafficking at Ongole
- NGOs working with commercial sex workers point dire situation faced by this ignored section of the society owing to the crisis created by the Covid-19
- The lockdown is forcing to go for high interest loans from moneylenders which will ultimately lead to trafficking in women and children
- Community-based organisations urge the govt to distribute aid through the organisations working with the district AIDS prevention and control units
Ongole: The coronavirus pandemic hit all sections of the population, including commercial sex workers (CSWs). The lockdown conditions in the state have affected the income of the sex workers, forcing them to take loans at higher interest rates for survival. The community-based organisations that are working closely with them suggest that the authorities help those people too, as most of them do not have ration cards. They observe that there would be a spike in the trafficking in women after the control of Covid-19 if the government doesn't respond fast.
The data from the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) and Andhra Pradesh State Control Society, there are around 80,000 female commercial sex workers in the state, in which nearly 8000 are from Prakasam district. Apart from these women, there are another 1.20 lakh women from migrant families, who are also involved in the sex trade. Most of these women are single mothers and women who are neglected by their husbands and families or the main breadwinners for their families. Due to the work they do, they would be habituated to alcohol, ganja, and other narcotics and spend most of their income on them.
With the unexpected 21-day lockdown, CSWs too lost their livelihood. Shaik Munni, a project officer in a community-based organisation for the welfare of sex workers in Ongole, said that these women are being forced into debt with higher interest rates due to the lockdown. She said that though the other people require surety for taking the private loans, the greedy money lenders give money to these women without any surety but collect higher interest rates like Rs 10, Rs 15 and Rs 20 a month depending on the emergency and demand payment in short duration. She explained that women are utilising the money for immediate needs and emergencies in the family. This lockdown is also forcing the women who were rescued earlier and came out of the profession to go back into it again, and will result in more trafficking in the state, she said.
N V S Rammohan, secretary of HELP, an NGO closely working with the women rescued from sex trade, says such victims were not receiving the compensation assured by the law. He said that as per the NCRB data, only two of the 1,115 women rescued in 2018 received the compensation. He opined that the neighbourhood of these destitute women won't leave them to live peacefully. "Lockdown now is forcing most of these women in the trade to go to sleep without any food. The government should distribute help through the community-based organisations working with the district AIDS prevention and control units when they attend for regular medical check-ups," he said and also advised the government to protect the women from the greedy lenders and save them and their girl children from trafficking again due to the hefty loans.