Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17007 Exploring the Needs of Sex Workers In Kamathipura, Mumbai, India

Thursday, January 12, 2012: 4:30 PM
Constitution D (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Lindsay Gezinski, MA, MSW, PhD Candidate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Sharvari Karandikar, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background and Purpose: Mumbai represents the largest brothel-based sex industry in India, with over 15,000 male, female, and transgendered sex workers. These sex workers are predominantly located in Kamathipura, Asia's largest red-light area (Menen, 2007). This research was a qualitative study on the needs of 48 female sex workers from the Kamathipura red-light area. One question guided this study: What are the needs of sex workers? Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was utilized as the theoretical framework for this research study.

Methods: An in-depth interviewing method was used to gather data. The interviews were semi-structured and the participants could choose to speak on any area of particular relevance to them. The study procedures were approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai in June 2008. All participants were assigned pseudonyms for research purposes. For the purpose of analysis, the researchers translated and wrote each interview in the form of a narrative. These narratives were free constructions of the interview from the researchers' notes. Each narrative contained quotes and dialogues from the interviews and captured the voice and language of prostitutes from the field. The analysis consisted of reading to uncover relationships between themes and categories (Straus & Corbin, 1990; 1997).

Results: The age of participants ranged from 20 year to 60 years with a mean of 35.07 years. Most of the women were street-based sex workers, and all of the women indicated that they were trafficked for sex. The mean age at entry was 18.12 years with a mode of 13 years. The time spent in sex work ranged from 4 months to 42 years with a mean of 16.36 years. Of those who spoke about education, 87.5 percent were illiterate/had no education and the others had very little education. Emphasized needs included access to food, health visits and medication, shelter, clothing, free condoms, education of children, and help from NGOs. Overwhelmingly, participants indicated that they did not make enough income to cover their expenses. These included personal expenses such as food and shelter, as well as familial expenses. The majority of participants in this study indicated that they suffered from health problems. Women discussed difficulty in acquiring treatment and medication, as well as their experiences of stigma and discrimination in health-related settings. Participants expressed concerns about safety in Kamathipura. The women discussed danger at the hands of police, intimate partners, brothel keepers, clients, and other sex workers.

Conclusions and Implications: Overall, sex workers indicated a desire to fulfill their basic needs such as food, clothing, toiletries, and shelter. The need for medical care and medications was discussed to a lesser extent. This study provided support for Maslow's (1943, 1987) Hierarchy of Needs. Study participants proposed various interventions to meet their needs. These recommendations revolved around the work of NGOs, alternative employment, police intervention, safety for children, and a societal shift in attitudes regarding sex work.>011-->

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