Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Indian sex workers


Newindpress.com, 11 October 2005, reported on male sex workers in Kerala.

J Kumar (not his real name), a male sex worker for 14 years said: "Certainly things are much better now than when I began.

"I got into this when as a teenager and I have not looked back. We are a group of a dozen males and have certain places where we get our customers," Kumar told IANS.

The number of male sex workers in the state has increased, said S K Hari, the team leader of the Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, which is a project support unit of the Kerala State AIDS Control Society."I have studied the community for the past decade. Certainly, there is a remarkable turnaround in the activities and their well being," he added.

"What we are interested in is the health aspect. We hold routine classes for the safe workers and advise them on safe sex," added Hari.

Close to 80 percent of the male sex workers in 53 groups surveyed by Hari and his team hail from the lower middle class society and do it for money."Being a male-to-male activity, we do not have much of a problem compared to female commercial sex workers," said Kumar. The clients come from all socio-economic levels of the state's population and are aged between 17 and 62 years.Hari's studies classify the sex workers into various types.

"One group is made of those who are happy being a sex worker and their only problem is that they feel that the social environment is still not favourable, while some constantly ask themselves why they are into this," said Hari.

Hari's studies also claim that there was a higher level of emotional satisfaction among the male sex workers."Among female sex workers very few regular clients have any emotional attachment," said he.



AIDS in India.

India has one of the highest infection rates - and more than five million HIV/Aids cases.

From the BBC website:

In a corner of the St Katherine's Home in Bombay (Mumbai) a group of children are enjoying their playtime.

But despite their singing and laughter these are not typical five-year-olds - all of them are HIV positive.

They were infected by their parents before they were born and were brought here sick and, in some cases, close to death.

In a society where families are the main source of support, they are looked after by nurses and nuns.

Sister Shanti has 30 children in her care at this orphanage.

She says the hardest part for her is when people turn their back on children as young as these.

"It disturbs me when people discriminate against them.

"They have this disease through no fault of their own. They too have a right to live," she says.

For years many in India ignored the growing threat of Aids. Many simply could not imagine it was something that could affect them.

Down a crowded street in the heart of Bombay is the Unison clinic, one of the few in the city that deals with HIV patients.

Ram Kewar is on one of his regular visits - he is among 20 HIV-infected people who come here every day.

He was infected by the virus a few years ago and since then has passed it on to members of his family.

He says he had never even heard of the disease, far less about how it can be transmitted.
"I thought it was just my fate to have got it. It was only much later that I found out why it had happened to me."

The new Indian government has identified Aids as one of its priorities.

But the biggest problem is combating ignorance - and that includes people who are very influential.

Sanjay Nirupam is a politician belonging to the right-wing Shiv Sena party, an ally of the former Indian government and the main opposition party in Bombay.

He believes the issue is being overplayed.

"One always hears about Aids and how it's this big problem. But I have personally never come across anyone with Aids or seen anyone dying of the disease," he says.

"I think it's just hype."

But it's a problem which is not just confined to the poor or uneducated, or even the conservative.
In a trendy Bombay cafe young men and women draw on cigarettes and sip long cocktails.

They are part of cosmopolitan Bombay's elite - upwardly mobile, liberal and well-informed.
This is one section of Indians who are more open to talking about Aids - but they would never think of doing so at home.

"It has to do with sex and that's something which is an absolute taboo," says twenty-something Rocky Bhatia.

"Most families simply will not bring it up."

But there's hope at the other end of the social divide.

Falkland Road right in the heart of the city is Bombay's red light district.

For years activists have worked closely with the sex workers operating out of tiny rooms and filthy alleyways off this busy street.

It's a move that is now paying dividends.

Monica is a sex-worker who has seen many of her colleagues die.

In the past decade, Aids has claimed the lives of thousands of sex workers. Now they are learning to be more careful.

Volunteers regularly visit every brothel handing out boxes of condoms and carrying out regular medical tests.

"If a customer refuses to use a condom we return his money and turn him away," says Monica.

"It doesn't matter how much money he offers us. Our lives are more important."

It is a small sign of success for a problem that needs to be tackled on a much larger scale.

Otherwise, it is estimated that in the next 10 years India could have more Aids cases than all of Africa.


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