As the world is going digital, sex workers reaching their clients online, making the best use of technology, and smartphones they are reaching their customers on WhatsApp chat or on Facebook video calling.
Mala (name changed to protect identity) a sex worker from Pila House told Afternoon Voice, “We have been told not to stand or sit outside our rooms. We are not allowed to do business and we are starving, because last two months we are absolutely out of finance. Finally, we are calling our clients on WhatsApp video chat and entertaining them, word of mouth getting some clients, but they hardly pay anything but still our one-time meal is taken care of”.
Government has asked sex workers not to display themselves on the road and maintain safety, and those are ill or infected with HIV has been asked to stay away.
Looking at the present scenario they are exploring the ‘phone sex’ option and are already into virtual sex business to earn their living… “Phone sex is quite normal in high-end call girls, but it is a new thing for sex workers here. There are some sex workers who are already using the medium and they are sharing their experiences with others. This allows them to earn their income without being exposed to any physical contact with customers, thus keeping the risk of COVID-19 aside.
With the lockdown being eased, some sex workers in the red-light area want to get back to trade by taking all protections and following the standard operating procedures to stay protected against COVID-19. The livelihood of nearly thousands of sex workers in the Kamathipura area here in Mumbai has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown, following which several of them moved back to their hometowns. So far there are no COVID 19 cases reported in these areas.
Some NGOs of Maharashtra has started imparting training through audio and video clips to the sex workers on what precautions they need to take during customer visits. Since there will be physical contact with customers, they have chalked out SOPs and guidelines. While condoms are mandatory, now masks and gloves are also a must during sexual activity. They have been asked to use hand sanitizers and disinfectants. Some of the sex workers have bought thermal scanners and foot-operated sanitizer dispensers and placed them outside their premises, she said. “It has been advised to ask the customer to take a shower before the activity and not to entertain any customer having a cough or fever.