SOCIAL EXCLUSION: A STUDY ON ELDERLY FEMALE COMMERCIAL SEX WORKERS IN BIJAPUR, BAGALKOT AND BELGAUM DISTRICTS OF KARNATAKA Abstract This paper is an outcome of a pilot study conducted as a part of major research project supported by University Grants Commission, New Delhi. It attempts to answer empirically to the questions; what happens to the female sex workers at the age of 45 when they face difficulties to attract the customers and withdraw from sex work voluntarily or involuntarily? How they manage their basic needs? What kind of coping strategies they adopt? It further suggests possible interventions to improve the life conditions of the elderly female commercial sex workers in Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum districts of Karnataka. Key Words: Social Exclusion, Elderly, Female, Commercial Sex Workers, Coping Mechanism Introduction: The increasing processes of industrialization, modernization, urbanization and increased globalization and economic liberalization have given a way to grow commercial sex industry in the world market. The agencies of informal social control, morality, ethics and socio-cultural values are deteriorating. Further, there is an increase in individualism, vulgar materialism, and selfishness. As a result, there is an increase in immoral and unethical activities (Sonar, 2010). It is due to easy accessibility to obscene literature, pictures and movies through cable TV network, magazine, internet, video theaters, mobile phones, etc.
These developments have contributed directly or indirectly towards the increase of commercial sex work in recent past. The sex workers may be selective about the kinds of sexual activities that they perform for money. Payment for the specific act is what distinguishes the commercial sex workers to accept a range of gifts while having sexual contact with client. Prostitutes are later termed as commercial sex workers and now termed as entertainment workers. In India, they are a group of underprivileged, disadvantaged and marginalized women belong to the lower socio-economic strata (Jayashree and Parvathy, 2004). Aging is natural, universal and inevitable. All the human beings have to go through a predictable course of biological change which starts from infancy to childhood, later to adolescence and youth, then to adulthood and middle age and finally to old age. This development sequence is not simply a biological one, but is also a socio-cultural process, because the nature of the life cycle, its length, its stages, its problems, its rewards varies in accordance with the historical and social location of each individual and generation (Dhillon, 1992). In case of female sex workers, aging appears in a too early age as they are exploited in all areas of life. Thereby, they may not have successful aging due to their previous life conditions, social exclusion and bitter conditions.
They hardly get love, affection, happiness, and satisfaction and therefore end up life in miserable conditions. Statement of the Problem: In India, Karnataka is considered as one of the “high supply zones” to supply women for sex work. Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum are the major districts from which women migrate to the big cities, like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune as a part of an organised trafficking network. Sex work is largely practiced in these areas due to (1) traditional practice of Devadasi system; (2) being border of Maharashtra (customers from Maharashtra i.e., from Sangli, Satara and Solapur districts visit Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum districts of Karnataka); (3) increased risk of poverty and hunger; and (4) and international tourism. KHPT (2010) has identified 27,945 female sex workers in study area. 40% of the female sex workers enter profession soon after puberty and grow as illiterates and unskilled adults without schooling. They are largely exploited physically and mentally and experience miserable conditions and get early aging than general population. By the age 45, they will not be able to attract the customers. Hence, voluntarily or involuntarily, withdraw from sex work. Some of them re-employ as pimps but many are left as deserts and destitutes having no social support whatsoever. (30%) 8,383 female sex workers are aged 45 years and above living in studied area. What happen to them once they are pushed out from sex work? Among the weaker sections, they are weakest being women, elderly, marginalised, vulnerable and excluded. They are at the last and in need of least in the process of development. Thus calls for immediate interventions with holistic perspectives.
Mainstreaming them has a bearing on attaining true state of inclusive development. Hence, a study is taken up on the conditions of female elderly commercial sex workers in Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum districts of Karnataka. There are various factors contribute to the conditions of the elderly female commercial sex workers. Their conditions become vulnerable due to their previous life history and non-support of family and society. Hence, there is an urgent need to take steps to tackle the issues of elderly female commercial sex workers. Rationale: A large proportion of Indian women and children are victims of trafficking. The involvement of adult men in illegal sex is increasing demand sex with young girls, especially virgins. For this reason, the average age at which young girl enters the commercial sex has been steadily declining (Mai, 1994). Out of 100,000 Indian commercial sex workers, 40 percent of them enter the commercial sex work immediately after puberty (Jones, 1996). The number of commercial sex workers certainly increases over next decades as the brothel owners and pimps deprive these young girls. If they do not die due to HIV/AIDS, they would likely mature into illiterates and unskilled adults. Many of them would have no alternate livelihood option other than continuing work in the commercial sex (Sonar, 2010). The social stigma and societal rejection of sexual victims and non-virgins plays a major role in continuing commercial sex after the coercion ends. Many will be rejected by their families and society.
They have to lead remaining life on their own. The practice of commercial sex work is hardly possible after 45 years. They have to withdraw from the profession voluntarily or involuntarily because no customers prefer them. Since they enter the commercial sex work in a childhood age, they are either educated or known to any skills. The family members, relatives and society generally reject them, as it is culturally not acceptable (Sonar and others, 2004). The conditions of the female commercial sex workers would become worsen once their demand declines. The socio-cultural, psychological, economic, physical and health problems make their life most miserable. It is to be noted that aging of commercial sex workers began in a very early stage of life as compared with general population. They have no husband, family, relatives and well wishers. As a result, they may not be constructive in coping due to absence of supportive mechanisms (Sonar, 2010). Hence, they may not feel happy, satisfied and adjust with life. There are hardly any specific interventions or programmes made exclusively for the elderly female commercial sex workers either by the Government or non-governmental organizations in India so far. In view of this, it is worthwhile to understand the situation of the female commercial sex workers during old age with reference to socio-cultural, psychological, economic, and physical and health aspects to devise appropriate and better interventions. This would definitely have a bearing on understanding comprehensively the problems of the elderly female commercial sex workers and their successful aging. Social work profession has a great deal in attaining development. Development is not partial, it is integral.
The elderly commercial sex workers are one of the weaker sections and marginalized group of society (Sonar, 2010). They are systematically excluded from the process of development since generations. Without developing them, development is incomplete. So there is a need to study the conditions of the elderly female commercial sex workers with a holistic perspective. This would throw light on the multidimensionality of the problem and the possible solutions as envisaged by the elderly female commercial sex workers themselves. Besides academicians, this would help the planners, policy makers, philanthropists, and Government and non-government organizations to formulate policies in a proper perspective for a successful implementation of them. The study taken up with following objectives;
1. To explore the conditions of female elderly commercial sex workers aged (45 years and more) in Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum districts of Karnataka;
2. To find out the coping strategies adopted by the female elderly commercial sex workers; and
3. To suggest possible interventions to improve the conditions of elderly female commercial sex workers for inclusive development. Hypothesis: The personal background, socio-psychological, economic, and physical and health conditions of the elderly female commercial sex workers have a bearing on the coping strategies adopted by them. v Approaching directly to the female elderly commercial sex worker was quite challenging. Therefore, a community based organizations (sex workers collectives) and Karnataka Health Promotion Trust were approached to help in identifying female elderly commercial sex workers in Bijapur, Bagalkot and Belgaum districts of Karnataka. To collect information on personal background and conditions of the elderly female commercial sex workers, semi-structured interview schedule and a checklist were used by adopting interview, observation and focused group discussion techniques. To explore coping strategies, coping strategies inventory prepared by Jammuna D (Center for Research an Aging, Tirupati) was used. Universe and Sample: The female elderly commercial sex workers were identified with the help of list provided by Karnataka Health Promotion in selected areas. The universe of the study constitutes 8,383 elderly female commercial sex workers aged 45 years and above. An attempt is made to have greater representation from the Universe by adopting stratified random sampling. From each district elderly female sex workers were randomly selected from three age cohorts. The cohorts are; young 45-54 years, old 55-64 years and very old 65 years and above. From each cohort 50 and 150 from each district were studied.
The size of the sample was limited to 450 out of three selected districts.
Analysis: The primary data collected from the elderly female commercial sex workers were subjected to processing.
Qualitative data was quantified. The computer software namely statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) was used to calculate percentage and frequency table for describing the factors. The proportions were used to generalize the findings. The cross-tables and chi-square tests were also calculated to see the association between set of selected independent and dependent variables.
Major Findings: Personal Background: n Out of 450, a majority of elderly female commercial sex workers were identified as widows and deserted; n Belonging to schedule caste and backward caste and Hindu religion; n Illiterate, living alone and presently undertaken brothel keeping as an option for livelihood; and n Entered the commercial sex work before the age 19 years.
Condition of female elderly commercial sex workers is most vulnerable as they face myriad of problems. They get aging at the age of 45 years and unable to practice sex work. Further, sudden decrease of financial sources leads them to so many complications. They have no social support what so ever. Hence, during old age, many of them got into vulnerable conditions as excluded from mainstream society. As they grow as illiterate unskilled adults, their life is pitiable as compared to general elderly population. They are unconstructive in coping. In order to improve their life conditions, following suggestions are made; n Elderly commercial sex workers need to be addressed immediately with special programmes by the Government/NGOs for inclusive development; n They should be given PDS card (Annapurna) to meet their food requirements; n There must be a scheme to provide them a shelter; n Skill based trainings may be given in order to make them independent; n Government/NGO working for commercial sex workers and HIV/AIDS should employ and involve elderly female commercial sex workers; n Elderly commercial sex worker be given old age pension from the age of 45 years; and n They may be covered under SHGs to have social and economic empowerment of them. Acknowledgements: Thanks are due to University Grants Commission, New Delhi for the financial support to conduct this major research project. Further, this study could not be materialized without cooperation of the elderly female commercial sex workers in collecting the data.
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