New Delhi: Being rescued from a brothel is not always the end of a dark tunnel. Rather, it could be the beginning of a more traumatic life. A number of sex workers rescued and repatriated show higher levels of traumatic disorders than those living in brothels, according to an all–India study.
The study conducted by Swanchetan, an NGO, from October 2007 to March 2008, used the five–point Likert scale to map the relative intensity with which each victim experienced and demonstrated trauma. Clinical psychologists interviewed more than 500 women victims of trafficking across 12 states. The oldest candidate was 45, while the youngest, a rather disturbing 12. Only 180 responded willingly and in full. Of them the 43 repatriated suffered from anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance – all indicators of PTSD (post–traumatic stress disorder) – more than the rest.
“This is not to suggest that repatriation should be stopped. It only means that more attention and care needs to be given to the process of repatriation to ensure that a sex worker’s life outside the brothel is better than being a part of it. Counselling and well–defined strategies of rehabilitation should be made an essential part of the repatriation process,” says clinical psychologist Rajat Mitra of Swanchetan.
Asha, 28, is a typical case. Rescued by police and repatriated after three years of living in Mumbai brothels, she was branded a “Mumbai–return” in her village. That meant social isolation. Her family ignored her, leaving her out of gatherings and blamed her for bringing her family a ‘Bad name’. The fact that she’s HIV positive hasn’t helped – she’s not allowed to touch her nephew. Perhaps this is why the sex worker in Shyam Benegal’s classic movie, Mandi, chooses to return to the brothel.
The study also notes that “adaptation and coping were…the lowest in repatriated women”, a conclusion evidenced by the fact that most of the suicide attempts – 21 – were from this group, and, 80% of the victims inflicted selfharm. In nearly 50% cases, the family initiates the trafficking process. For example, Geeta, 25, was sold off by her father.
South Indian women, the study found, face more brutality in brothels than others. Comparing degrees of trauma on a regional basis, the 49 women from south in the study group registered the highest levels. “We don’t know why but they face more abuse,” says Mitra, adding that the women say, “Chamri gori ho to utni maar nahin parti (a fair skin does not attract so much abuse).”
Common methods of taming are starvation, confinement, beatings, rape, threats to the victim and her family. Uma, 23, from Karnataka, for instance, had her arms, legs and chest cut and the gashes filled with chilli powder every time she refused to “Entertain” men at a Mumbai brothel. Abortions are common but post–operative care is not. 80% (144) women in the sample reported abortions. The 60 women (most aged between 28 and 35) in the sample who had kids clocked higher or the same level as non–mothers in nearly every symptom except in such factors as ‘addiction’, ‘bodily abuse’ and ‘disturbance of memory’.
“Not one woman we met was a sex worker voluntarily,” says Mitra recalling an incident where in the same court, a trafficking victim was shoved around by policemen in a manner markedly different from the way a rape victim is treated.
Source: Times of India