Situational Analysis of Sex Workers in Kerala with special reference to Ernakulam District

Name and address of the principal investigator:

Sunita K S

Asst professor Dept of Social Work,

Rajagiri College of Social Sciences,

Rajagiri P O, Kalamassery,

Pin-683104 Kerala, India


Name and address of the institution:

Rajagiri College of Social Sciences,

(Affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam)

Rajagiri P O, Kalamassery,


Kerala, India


Objectives of the project:

  1. To study the profile of sex workers in Ernakulam district of Kerala.
  2. To understand psycho social problems among sex workers.
  3. The process of coming to terms-to study the reconciliation process of sex workers with the outer world.
  4. To understand the process which shapes the self-image of sex workers and as well as the image they have of the 'others' in the context of their everyday life.
  5. To study the image that sex workers have for their future life and for the life of their children.

Summary of findings


The present study aims at understanding the life experiences of sex workers in their everyday life. In addition, the present study aims to understand the actual "lived in" experiences of these sex workers. These experiences will help to understand the process of reconciliation and adjustment which these sex workers have made with their life and living conditions in order to survive in this profession. There was also be an attempt to understand the image and views the sex workers have about themselves and of the others in the society. Societal perception and its impact on the daily life of the sex workers will also be an area of interest. Lastly the future aspiration of these sex workers about themselves and about their children will be included keeping in mind the socio-cultural milieu in which they are existing.

The researcher has tried to find out socio demographic profile of the respondents. The purpose of research was to find out the respondents age, religion, education, family system, source of income, type of work etc. From the available data the researcher concluded that the respondents enter the profession from age 18 and below but for the present study majority of the respondents belong to the age category of 31 to 40 years (53.3%). Out of 60 respondents 50% of respondents are married having children and living with their family members, majority 63.3% of the respondents have primary level education. The monthly income of majority respondents (45%) ranges from Rs5000-Rs10000. The researcher found out that forced sex working was only 3% here in the present study they get into the sex work profession because of sudden financial for looking after family and raring the children, providing better education and safe future. The lack of sufficient education is one of the major factors for not getting other better paid jobs and opted to take up the sex trade.

The researcher found out that majority 86% of respondents have not disclosed about the profession to their family members, to hide the identity of being a sex worker 45% of sex worker change the location from one place to another for safer environment, to easily switch on or perform the role of sex worker without any fear and to earn more money by changing the place. 86% of the sex workers not able to share their problems related to sex profession with their family members for whom she entered the profession because of the stigma attached to it and have fear of breaking bonds in family as a result they are not able to disclose any issues problems related to sex profession with the family members.. The majority 40%of respondents are comfortable disclosing their profession only to the NGO staffs and their peer groups in the organization. Being a sex worker 88.8% of them have multi issues which bother their normal life the major issues which bother them more are family awareness about her sex profession. The further issues are fear of being arrested by the police, getting STD or HIV infection or fear of getting pregnant. These issues in later stages lead to psychological problems. The researcher found that 25% of respondents lost interest in activities and life in general, as the feeling bothers her that she hides the truth from the family members. 50% of the respondents responded that when they are at home they avoid thoughts or feelings of as sex worker and 20% have guilt feeling detaches them from others and making them emotionally numb. 25% of respondents experience difficulty in concentration while managing the dual role to handle the needs of family.25% of respondents experience hyper vigilance –red alert, always vigilant for hiding about her sex profession from the family members.16.6% respondents experience difficulty in sleeping and 20% experiences irritability or outbursts of anger. 73% respondents experience the mood swings occasionally. 75%of respondents experiences feeling of depersonalisation occasionally. 70% of respondents experiences anxiety occasionally and 30% of respondents experiences anxiety frequently. 73% respondents experienced Obsessions and compulsions. 78% of respondent’s experiences the Feeling of ashamed and Guilty occasionally. The major finding is that majority of sex workers shows the symptoms of the psychological problems which has to be taken into consideration; here the data shows that they have the symptoms of suicidal tendencies and dissociation. If these symptoms were not looked after properly in future they may have chances of having post traumatic disorder.

The researcher found that though the majority 41% sex worker not satisfied with profession but still majority of sex workers (58%) feel that sex workers play a very important role in society. They also feel that if sex work was completely stopped, society would be a more dangerous place, especially for women. (61%) feel that societies attitude towards sex workers is very bad. Majority of sex workers (45%) feel that the police are not concerned about their safety or welfare. The police are not seen as a source of security for the sex workers who instead rely on other sex workers for security. A majority of sex workers (66.6%) feel that police attitude towards sex workers is also very bad because the cultural and social stigma persists in society for the sex worker and lack of information about the human rights. But it interesting to note that a significant percentage also feel that police attitude towards them is fair (31.7%). This could indicate the possibility of a growing change in how sex workers to be perceived by society. Majority of sex workers (40%) feel that legalizing sex work will not make a difference to their lives. But a significant portion (38%) feels that it would somewhat improve their lives. The researcher found that for majority (83%) of sex workers their families and marriages institution is very important. For many of the respondents, the main reason for being in the sex work profession was to support their families. The majority of sex workers families (85%) do not know about their profession. 86.5 % of respondents manage by performing dual roles, as of sex worker and as of house wife without informing her profession to family and society by hiding the truth by lies and by projecting herself as having a respectable job within and outside the district or by pretending to visit the friends. The rest of 13.3% of respondents manage dual role by informing the family members about the profession.


The researcher found that majority (85%) children of the sex workers are not aware of their profession. This is because of the fear of losing the affection and support of their children due to the stigma associated with the sex work profession. The majority of sex workers (45%) are hopeful towards the future of their children and believe that their children will have a bright future ahead .The majority of sex workers (73%) would discourage their children becoming sex workers. This clearly indicates that the respondents do not think that sex work is an ideal profession for their children and they want a better future for their children. The majority of respondents have no clear plan for leaving the sex trade in the near future. This could be due to multiple reasons like – lack of alternative income generating skills, their existing financial situation etc. The majority of respondents (40%) intend to start their own business after retirement from sex work. 35% preferred to work in shops after retirement from sex work profession and13.3% of respondents wants to stay with children after retirement from sex work profession. The findings shows that 75%of respondents expecting both the continuous skill based training and support from the organization which is the place of common platform for sex worker where they can ventilate with their peer group and other staffs and can think for better future.


Sex work though an oldest profession but then and now the stigma related to this profession persists. With all stigma and other related issues sex workers are part of society and society can no longer turn a blind eye towards sex work and imagine that it does not exist. If sex work was completely stopped, society would be a more dangerous place, especially for women. Sex workers are human beings too and have the same human rights as any other human being. Recognizing this fact is the first step in order to prevent injustice towards them. Any society, in order to develop or progress, must treat all its members with equality and justice.