Violence in Contract Work Among Female Sex Workers in Andhra Pradesh, India

An article in J Infect Dis. (2011) 204 (suppl 5): S1235-S1240.

Background: Female sex workers (FSWs) are vulnerable to physical and sexual violence at work. This article examines the prevalence of recent physical and sexual violence victimization and associations of type of sex work among a large sample of young FSWs.

Method: We used data from a cross-sectional survey on sex trafficking and sex work in southern India that included 1138 FSWs aged 18–25 years residing in 3 districts of Andhra Pradesh state. The independent variable was organization of sex work. FSWs on contract at sex work establishments outside their home district were classified as contract workers, as compared with women who worked autonomously within their home district. Using logistic regression models adjusted for sociodemographic factors, we assessed the relation between contract/ non-contract sex work and various forms of violence experienced by FSWs.

Results: Results indicate a high prevalence of work-related physical and sexual violence; 50% FSWs reported physical violence, and 77% reported sexual violence. FSWs performing contract work were at increased risk of physical and sexual violence at work, compared with women engaged in sex work in their home districts.

Conclusions: The findings that contract work outside the home district increases the vulnerabilities faced by FSWs in India suggest that violence and disease prevention services aimed at FSWs would be more effective if organization of sex work—as contract or noncontract—is taken into account. 

(abstract authors' own)

PLRI Editors note: It comes as no surprise that people who are kidnapped, raped etc. are more likely to contract and transmit HIV than those who are not subject to those crimes. However there are a number of  difficulties for translating this information into HIV responses.  Firstly the numbers of victims of these crimes are not known and estimates vary widely. Secondly the aim of programming with victims of crime and sex workers are by definition different. Sex worker programmes must aim to encourage safe sex and condom use while people who are being raped need the crimes to stop. These two aims require very different programmes so that their conflation at the conceptual level may not be helpful.

Year of publication: 
Health and HIV
Annie George, Shagun Sabarwal, P. Martin