What is the living status of elderly female sex workers (FSWs) of India? They had also an age of retirement form the sex trade. It has been seen that there is a limited career span for FSWs. Sex market dictates the demand of women as per their age. The late teens to early 30s are more preferable to the market and it is prime earning time of a FSW. ‘Beyond the age of 30, FSWs attract fewer customers and client demands often become more deviant.’ So, how do the brothel-based Female Sex Workers spend after their retirement/withdrawal/rejection from the sex trade?
From a study of 100 FSWs above 40 years of age of Kolkata (Bowbazar Red-light Area), it was revealed that FSWs are further stigmatized and marginalized after retirement. There are rarely any social security measures for their maintenance after retirement from the trade. They have no saving and no family support because of their stigmatized living pattern. The study gravitated that about 1/3 of them were destitute. They were above 50 years of age and they had to beg to meet their basic needs. They belong to dangerous outcaste. So, they lost their eligibility even to do job of domestic help. About 20% of them were operating the business of alcohol & ganja etc. in their community.
They had no shelter. The study indicated that after retirement, FSWs suffered from either low earnings or no earnings. About 70% of them had no specific place to live. They had been usually taken shelter in abandoned places of street/lane/old building in their sex workers community (red-light area). Medical assistance was also a challenge for them. There was no government support because about 60% of retired FSWs had no identity of their citizenship.
It is evident that government or other development agencies (NGOs) so far as FWSs are concerned have been concentrated on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. But rehabilitation measures, specifically for retired FSWs do not exist or it is thin or absent. We found that 60% of retired FSWs have no identity of their citizenship. So, they have lost their eligibility to avail the services of any Government relief or entitlement schemes.
Therefore, to rehabilitate the retired FSWs concentration should be paid to alternative livelihoods through various skill training. The day care centre might give them an alternative way of living. There is also a need of old age pension beyond the norms in general. ‘The proper care of all citizens—regardless of profession strengthens the fabric of society’.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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