Mental Health of Women Sex Workers Can’t be Ignored Anymore
World Mental Health Day 10th October 2020: What are govt & communities doing to provide better mental healthcare to sex workers?
There is a welcome change in how we address mental health today. Yet, gaps remain in mental health services for the most marginalised communities, like women in sex work. One million women in sex work struggle to live a life of safety and well-being in India. One of them is Lalitha.
Lalitha’s story is similar to many others in her community. Lured into sex work under the garb of employment while still a teenager, she lived most of her adult life disallowed from going out, and today, is able to finally speak about her stress and anxiety. She credits her moments of respite to being a member of a community organisation.
Sex Workers Face Higher Risk Of Mental Health Illness
Studies worldwide have indicated that sex workers are at higher risk of mental health issues than most other members of the general populace. Correlations have been drawn with violence, substance use, food insecurity, financial struggles, etc.
A 2008 study titled ‘Mental Disposition of Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs) with HIV/AIDS’ shows that the majority of women in sex work suffer from depression. Yet another 2009 study (by Bhatt et al) reported the prevalence of neurotic disorders in commercial sex workers to be 45 percent, and 94 percent of them had depressive disorders.
A 2012 study titled ‘Psychological Morbidity Among Female Commercial Sex Workers with Alcohol and Drug Abuse’ by Pandiyan et al, found anxiety, alcohol abuse and psychological morbidity (depression and adjustment disorder) to be especially prevalent among women sex workers.