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Coronavirus forcing sex workers towards debt bondage, slavery

Coronavirus forcing sex workers towards debt bondage, slavery
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Coronavirus forcing sex workers towards debt bondage, slavery

Highlights

Findings of a new research indicate that more than 90 per cent of commercial sex workers in three states are facing the prospect of permanent debt bondage by the end of this year

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New Delhi: Findings of a new research indicate that more than 90 per cent of commercial sex workers in three states are facing the prospect of permanent debt bondage by the end of this year.

The research, conducted by Dr. Beulah Shekhar, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at Karunya Institute of Technology Sciences (KITS) in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, examines the financial exploitation the community faces in the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic.

The study was conducted in the red light areas of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. Of the total 7,76,237 sex workers in India, over 1,29,000 are from Maharashtra, Delhi and West Bengal, according to National Aids Control Organisation.

With the Covid-19 pandemic putting the brakes on mainstream prostitution and drying up their daily earnings, majority of sex workers were forced to rely on loans from brothel owners, pimps and others. These debts piled up and with no means to repay them in the near future, sex workers could end up trapped in the shackles of debt bondage and sexual slavery for the rest of their lives.

"I started looking into the plight of sex workers as the community suffered a severe setback this pandemic. That's when I stumbled upon the problem of debt bondage they were grappling with. Further research into this issue revealed great concerns. A majority of sex workers are victims of trafficking, they were forced into prostitution, mostly at a very young age in their life. Their sufferings seem to have no end as now the debt bondage further victimises them," explains Shekhar after wrapping up the research, the report of which is expected to be published in the coming months.

In India, 95 per cent of the trafficked victims are forced into prostitution, shows the latest data by National Crime Records Bureau. However, these numbers are estimated to be just a fraction of the actual figures as sex traffickers work in a clandestine way.

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