Young girls pushed into prostitution in Goa are more likely to think about suicide or attempt to commit suicide as compared to their counterparts from other states, as they feel extremely stigmatized and live under the daily threat of disclosure and exclusion from their communities, reveals a study.
The study Suicidal Behaviour Among Female Sex Workers in Goa, India: The Silent Epidemic on 326 female sex workers in Goa reveals that suicidal behaviours were very common, particularly in young women. Gender disadvantage (notably violence, entrapment and childlessness), type of sex work and poor mental health were associated with suicide attempts.
Almost 18.7% of commercial sex workers attempted suicide once in three months, while 25.6% were planning suicide, even as the prevalence of suicidal ideation in commercial sex workers in the state is as high as 34.9%, the study notes. About 20% of the girls studied were of Goan origin.
"Studies reveal that an estimated 0.6% to 0.7% of the female adult urban population is engaged in commercial sexual transactions. This is the first attempt to study suicides amongst sex workers and for the same we recruited 326 female sex workers (majority below the age of 30) in Goa from 35 different sex work networks in the state, who had provided sexual services in exchange for goods or money over the past 3 months," said Dr Maryam Shahmanesh, who is part of the study conducted by NGOs Sangath and positive people.
Of these, 125 had at some time or the other worked in the Baina red-light area and 201 had never worked there.
The study, which has been published in the American Journal of Public Health' in 2009, includes only those women who identified themselves as sex workers.
The objective of the study was to understand the prevalence of suicidal behaviour and its association with social and gender disadvantage, sex work and health factors, among female sex workers in Goa.
Attempted suicide was independently associated with intimate partner violence, violence from others, entrapment and worsening mental health score but was not associated with lack of financial autonomy, the study reveals.
"The migrant women were less likely to report suicide attempts. Goan sex workers in contrast are extremely stigmatized and live under the daily threat of disclosure and exclusion from their communities," the study notes.
"Female sex workers in India are a traditionally stigmatized group, with high prevalence of HIV and levels of stigma and violence that relate to the context of their work. Gender disadvantage is increasingly seen as an important contributing factor to the high rates of suicide seen in women in Asia. Gender-based violence is a common manifestation of gender disadvantage and has been linked to common mental disorders and suicide in population-based studies of women and young adults in Goa. Lack of autonomy, early sexual debut, limited sexual choices, poor reproductive health and social isolation are other manifestations of gender disadvantage," added Dr Shahmanesh.
The study reveals that 35% of all study participants had experienced intimate partner violence, 9% had experienced sexual violence, 27% had been coerced into unsafe sexual activity with a client, and 14% had been involved in a police raid over the past year.
Physical and verbal intimate partner violence, violence from other people and sexual violence were associated with suicide attempt.
"Having exposure to an HIV prevention intervention was associated with lower likelihood of suicide attempt, but there was no association between likelihood of suicide attempt and sexually transmitted infections," the study added.
Source: The Times of India