Female Sex Workers and Clients Contexts, Sexual Behaviour and...
Female Sex Workers and Clients
Contexts, Sexual Behaviour and Implications
K. ANIL KUMAR
This article examines the linkages between contexts and sexual behaviour among two
high-risk groups: female sex workers and their clients. Using data gathered from 501
female sex workers and 215 clients, the study reveals a high level of sexual demand
from clients, and severe economic pressure on the female sex workers. Contrary to
the general belief, clients are from both lower and better off socioeconomic catego-
ries; the proportion of married clients is considerable; and one-third of the clients are
youth aged 15-24 years. About 50 per cent of clients and sex workers have ever ex-
perienced symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. The article discusses the im-
mediate and long-term implications of the observed contexts and sexual behaviour.
Dr. K. Anil Kumar is Reader, Unit for Child and Youth Research, Tata Institute of
Social Sciences, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
INTRODUCTION
Though sexuality research in India was, and to a large extent still is,
characterised by its focus on high-risk groups, clients of female sex
workers (FSWs) remained largely an unresearched group due to the
difficulties in data gathering, in effectively implementing interventions,
and due to the assumption that the crucial sexual and reproductive
health concerns can be addressed by directing interventions at them.
There are quite a few studies on the sexual behaviour of the FSWs,
conducted in various parts of India. Many of the research studies in the
late 1980s and early 1990s were presented at the workshop on 'Sexual
Aspects of AIDS/STD Prevention in India' held in 1993 at the Tata
Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), some of which were subsequently
published in The Indian Journal of Social Work in 1994 (Volume 55,
Issue 4). While Khanna, Gurbaxani and Sengupta (2002) provide a
bibliography of studies conducted during 1990—2000 and Chandiramani
(2002) a review of sexuality research, more recent studies include
Bhattacharya (2004) and Jayasree and Parvathy (2004).
In the context of spreading HIV/AIDS, studies focusing on high-risk
groups tend to examine the knowledge about HIV/AIDS and condom
use, but by and large fail to analyse the relationship between
behaviours and contexts and, thus, the long-term implications. The
limited research on clients mostly covers relatively easy to access
specific groups of clients like 'regular clients' or 'truck drivers' (recent
exception is Bhattacharya, 2004). Even then, the focus is largely on the

Female Sex Workers and Clients 513
extent of awareness about AIDS and condom use, without detailed
attention to the causes of the existing situation (for example, why
awareness is low, or why condom use is low despite having awareness
about HIV/AIDS).
The present study views sexual behaviour and its modifications as
dependent upon the contexts in which this behaviour occurs; the contexts
being social, economic, and demographic and operating at the individual,
familial, and community levels. While it is possible to arrive at some
generalisations regarding why people visit FSWs, there can be variations
across individuals and population groups in the reasons for doing so.
Similarly, females might be compelled to enter the profession of sex work
due to economic pressure and exploitation. The circumstances under
which they enter the profession can have an influence on their sexual
behaviour and involvement in other risk behaviours. And, as it is difficult
to come out of this profession, modifications in their sexual behaviour
would depend on the changes in their demographic and economic status.
Another important factor that indirectly contributes to sexual behaviour
modification in a pressurised situation is the general attitude (though this
has changed a little in the recent years) of people, social scientists and
interventionists to view FSWs as 'the' agent of transmission of HIV/AIDS
and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The present paper studies the contexts, sexual behaviour and their
implications focusing on two high-risk groups — the FSWs and clients
— in Mumbai. It is based on a study, initiated by the Working Group on
Sexuality, TISS, to examine various aspects of sexuality among these
two high-risk groups.
METHOD
Mumbai has 26 red-light areas (arguably, and the number is
increasing) from where FSWs operate, mostly from brothels. Though
there are call girls who stay in rented houses or work in dance bars
(which were banned recently) some of which also function as pick-up
points, their number is proportionately very low when compared to
those working from brothels in the red-light areas. The present study
was conducted in 2000 in two selected red-light areas in Mumbai: near
Lamington Road and near Falkland Road.
Once the areas were selected, the buildings where dhanda
('business') is conducted were located, using an area map. A house
listing exercise was subsequently u n d e r t a k e n — within each building
all flats/rooms were contacted, and the number of sex workers
operating from each was ascertained. There were 1,578 sex workers
operating from the two areas, with variations across buildings. Out of
these 1,578 FSWs, 300 from the Lamington Road area and 201 from
Falkland area were selected in such a way t h a t the sample size from
each building was proportional to the number of sex workers
operating.

514 K. Anil Kumar
It was r a t h e r difficult to identify and interview the clients as they are
an extremely mobile group and not restricted to a single place. Even if
the red-light areas are so designated and people know t h a t sex work
happens there, the clients visiting these areas for sex do not generally
want others to know about their visit. Added to this, it is practically
difficult to distinguish if a particular person seen in the area or seen
coming out of a building is a client or not.
During the course of interviews with the FSWs, 30 clients were
interviewed. Once the interviews with the FSWs were completed, the
research team attempted to contact other clients. This required a
change in the timing of the research team's presence to evenings. In
some cases the sex workers told the team if a particular person was a
client. In a similar manner, pimps also helped in identifying more
frequent clients. Of the 215 clients interviewed, 74 per cent were
contacted directly, 20 per cent were contacted through pimps, and
others were contacted through FSWs. The study used interview
schedules to gather information. Additionally, 20 in-depth interviews
were conducted with a sub-sample of FSWs and 18 with a sub-sample of
clients.
PROFILE OF FEMALE SEX WORKERS
The mean age of selected respondents is close to 30 years (Table 1). This
tells us t h a t many of them would soon go out of business; they either
have to become brothel-keepers or have to find other avenues for
survival. The place of origin of these sex workers suggests that a
majority of them are from the southern region of India (54.5 per cent),
with a significant proportion from Karnataka (32.7 per cent), followed
by Andhra Pradesh (18.6 per cent). About 16 per cent of the selected sex
workers are from the neighbouring country of Nepal.
As one would expect, the educational status of sex workers is quite low.
What is striking is t h a t only 16 per cent of them are literate, far lower than
the literacy rate among females in the country as a whole (64 per cent) and
further below the literacy levels of females in the city where they are
located. Slightly more than one-fifth of the sex workers interviewed were
married at the time of interview. The share of separated or divorced (24
per cent) was higher than that of the currently married.
Only 46 per cent have had births; on an average the number of
children ever born is 1 (for all sex workers), thus showing t h a t many of
those who ever had birth had two or more births. Some institutions
were functioning in these areas where arrangements are made to take
care of the children during night. In many cases (about 40 per cent) the
child was not staying with the respondent and was taken care of by
immediate relatives, mostly in their native villages. In 7 per cent of
cases, children were with the respondent and were looked after by her,
by the institutions at times, and by other sex workers. In some cases,
the children were staying on the streets.

Female Sex Workers and Clients 515
TABLE 1: Socio-demographic Characteristics of FSWs
Characteristics
Category
Number
(Per cent)
Current Age (years)
Mean Age = 29.7 years
15-17
1 (0.2)
18-24
60 (12.0)
25-29
189 (37.7)
30-34
134 (26.7)
35-39
72 (14.4)
40 +
43 (8.6)
DK*
2(0.4)
Native Place (Region/Country) North
5 (1.0)
Central
21 (4.2)
East
84 (16.8)
North-East
2 (0.4)
West
33 (6.6)
South
273 (54.5)
Nepal
82 (16.4)
NR*
1 (0.2)
Education
Literate
17 (3.4)
Illiterate
418 (83.4)
Primary
59(11.8)
Secondary
7 (1.4)
Marital Status
Married
110 (22.0)
Never married
222 (44.3)
Divorced
13 (2.6)
Separated
106 (21.2)
Widowed
50 (10.0)
N
501 (100)
Note: * DK = Don't know; NR = No Response
The mean age at entering sex work is 21 years; comparing this with
their current age shows that on an average, they have been in this
profession for 8.8 years. The mean number of years stayed in Mumbai is
8.9 years; this compared with the 8.8 years in the profession tells t h a t
many of the sex workers came to the city and entered the profession
soon after. While 4.4 per cent entered this job before they completed 14
years, the proportion of those entered as child sex workers (below 18
years) is 17 per cent. This indicates the possibility t h a t some of the
younger respondents in the present study could have over-stated their
current age and t h a t child prostitution could still be prevalent.
A direct question as to what is the most important reason for joining
this profession produced a range of situations that coerce women to enter
sex work. The original responses gave 36 wide-ranging reasons. In many
instances (21 per cent) the husband or lover had a key role in compelling
the woman to take up this profession. Though a majority of them stated
inadequacy of family income, only 32.3 per cent reported this as the main

516 K. Anil Kumar
reason for entering to this profession. More than one-third said that they
came on their own will — either they ran away or came with friends who
were acquainted with the red light area and the profession.
As economic reasons have a significant bearing on forcing many
women to enter into sex work, they were asked about previous
occupational status. About one-fifth of them were not working, and a
majority (45 per cent) was agricultural labourers. Other occupations
reported are family-based business, domestic work, and semi-skilled
work, making it clear t h a t these women were earning only meagre
income before entering sex work.
Since many of the sex workers are illiterate and have experience
only as agricultural labourer or as unskilled worker, if they are ever to
be rehabilitated, some skills would come handy. This is especially
important for the older sex workers whose income would decrease in
the future. However, in 93 per cent of the cases, the respondents did
not have any special skills t h a t might enable them to gain alternative
employment. Only 6.8 per cent (34 respondents) reported as having
some skill; most cited tailoring as the skill they possess (25 out of 34
respondents).
Currently, the average daily income of the sex workers is Rupees
137/-. However, this average masks the fact t h a t 15 per cent of them get
less t h a n Rupees 50/- a day (Table 2). Also, about half of the sex workers
earn less t h a n Rupees 100/- a day, indicating t h a t for most of them the
expectation to earn more money after joining the profession has not
been fulfilled. On an average, the FSWs work (or are at least available
for work) for 25 days in a month. The number of working days when
multiplied by the average daily income could provide an approximation
of the average monthly income. The classification of income into broad
categories was based on the per capita income in India used to define
poverty line in 2000. The average monthly income works out to Rupees
3,099/-. Close to 15 per cent of the sex workers earn a monthly income,
which is less t h a n the all India average and 12 per cent of them earn
lower t h a n even half of the national average. Even then, the fact that 85
per cent of the FSWs earn a monthly income higher t h a n the national
average indicates the potential contribution of this factor in attracting
poor women to this profession.
More t h a n half of the sex workers pay a share of their daily earning
to the brothel-keeper as rent and for food. Some of them pay a fixed
monthly rent of Rupees 450/- (or Rupees 15 per day) or more and pay
additional for food. However, our interaction with some of the
brothel-keepers and observations at the brothels showed that, in many
cases, there is a common kitchen and food is prepared with assistance
from all the inmates without hampering their work and the total
expense is shared. In others, the inmates independently occupy one
portion of the brothel for which they pay monthly or daily rent and
make individual arrangements for food.

Female Sex Workers and Clients 517
TABLE 2: Current Economic Status of Selected FSWs
Characteristics
Category
Number
(Per cent)
Daily Income (in Rupees)
Mean income 137
< 5 0
74 (14.8)
5 1 - 1 0 0
181 (36.1)
1 0 1 - 2 0 0
142 (28.3)
201 +
48 (9.6)
NR
56 (11.2)
Average Monthly Income
Mean 3,099
(In Rupees)
<513
58(11.6)
5 1 4 - 1 0 2 5
15 (3.0)
1,026-2,050
92 (18.4)
2,051-3,500
156(31.1)
3,501-5,000
. 102(20.4)
5,001 +
73 (14.6)
NR
5 (1.0)
Housing Status
On fixed rent
195 (38.9)
Paying share of daily earning
276 (55.1)
No rent
27 (5.4)
NR
3 (0.6)
N
501 (100)
Note: NR = No response
WHO ARE THE CLIENTS?
The average age of clients is 28.5 years, one year less t h a n t h a t of FSWs
(Table 3). While a majority of clients are above 18 years, about 6 per
cent of them are in the age group of 15-19 years and 33 per cent (about
one-third) are youth as per the international definition of youth (15—24
years). As compared to the proportion of youth in the population (which
is about 20 per cent), this share is much higher.
The literacy status of the clients (82 per cent) is far better t h a n
FSWs, and also when compared to the national and state averages.
That more t h a n 45 per cent of the clients have completed at least
secondary level of education belies the widely-held belief t h a t those who
visit red-light areas are people from low social status; more t h a n 10 per
cent of the clients have completed graduation or above. One-third of the
selected clients are from Mumbai and another 60 per cent are usual
residents of Mumbai for at least one year. This is also against the
general belief t h a t a considerable section of the clients are from visitors
to the city. A more recent study in Pune (Bhattacharya, 2004) also
observed that 83 out of the 100 clients interviewed were usual residents
of the city itself.

518 K. Anil Kumar
TABLE 3: Socio-demographic Characteristics of Clients
Characteristics
Category
Number
(Per cent)
Age (years)
Mean Age = 28.5 years
15-19
12 (5.6)
20-24
58 (27.0)
25-29
63 (29.3)
30-34
40 (18.6)
35-39
6 (7.4)
40-44
6(7.4)
45+
10 (4.7)
Educational Status
Illiterate
39 (18.1)
Below Primary
6 (2.8)
Primary
38 (17.7)
Middle
32 (14.9)
Secondary
52 (24.2)
Higher Secondary
25 (11.6)
Graduate & above
23 (10.7)
Years Spent in Mumbai
Native
71 (33.0)
Visitors
15 (7.0)
1-2 years
43 (20.0)
3-4 years
21 (9.8)
5-9 years
29 (13.5)
10 + years
36 (16.7)
Marital Status
Married
93 (43.3)
Unmarried
113(52.6)
Separated/Divorced
54 (1.9)
Widower
5 (2,2)
Wife Currently Staying with
the Respondent
NA.
113 (52.6)
Yes
45 (20.9)
No
57 (26.5)
Family Type
Nuclear
96 (44.7)
Joint
107 (49.8)
Extended Nuclear
12 (5.6)
Total Number of Family Members Mean Number = 5.1
1
5 (2.3)
2
14 (6.5)
3
19 (8.8)
4
34 (15.8)
5
73 (34.0)
6
40 (18.6)
7+
30 (14.1)
N
215 (100)

Female Sex Workers and Clients 519
Contrary to the widely-held view that visitors to brothels are
generally unmarried males, the present study shows that a significant
proportion of the clients are currently married. While 53 per cent of the
clients are unmarried, the share of currently married is 43 per cent,
TABLE 4: Economic Status of Selected Clients
Characteristics
Category
Number
(Per cent)
Occupation
Business
18 (8.4)
Petty Business
22 (10.2)
Drivers (Rickshaw/Taxi/Bus/Truck)
28 (13.0)
Unskilled Labourer
37 (17.2)
Semi-Skilled Labourer
12 (5.6)
Skilled Labourer
31 (14.4)
Student
12 (5.6)
Private/Govt. Service
52 (24.2)
Unemployed
3 (1.4)
Monthly Individual Income
Mean income = 3,655
(In Rupees)
No Income
15 (7.0)
<513
1 (0.5)
514-1,025
10 (4.7)
1,026-2,050
40 (18.6)
2,051-3,500
72 (33.5)
3,501-5,000
39(18.1)
5,001-8,000
24(11.2)
8,001+
13 (16.0)
NR
1 (0.5)
Number of Dependent
Mean number = 2
Family Members
0
80 (37.2)
1
16 (7.4)
2
40 (18.6)
3
14 (6.5)
4
38 (17.7)
5 +
27 (12.6)
Monthly Family Income (in Rupees) Mean income = 7,474
<2,600
27 (12.6)
2,601-5000
71 (33.0)
5,001-8,000
45 (20.9)
8,001-12,000
31 (14.4)
2,001-18,000
12 (5.6)
18,001+
14 (6.5)
NR
15 (7.0)
N
215 (100)
Note: NR = No response.

520 K. Anil Kumar
with t h e r e m a i n i n g 4 per cent being widowed, divorced or separated.
Those who are currently married were asked if their wives are
staying with t h e m . Among the married clients (93), in 57 cases (61
per cent), t h e wife is not staying with them. In other words, about 40
per cent of t h e married clients usually stay with their wife and also
visit brothels. Clients have an average of five members in t h e family;
a n d t h e distribution of clients, according to t h e n u m b e r of family
members, indicates t h a t many clients are from joint or extended
families.
Availability of money and the type of work one does also could
influence the decision to visit sex workers. The clients are from a
variety of occupational backgrounds (Table 4). While over one-fifth of
them are unskilled or semi-skilled labourers, 13 per cent are drivers
and another 6 per cent are other skilled labourers. Ten per cent are
engaged in small business, 8 per cent are in medium or large business,
and about a quarter of them are in government or private service.
Students account for about 6 per cent of clients, whereas 1.5 per cent
are unemployed young people.
The distribution of clients by education and occupation show that sex
seeking in red-light areas is not an activity confined to the lower
socioeconomic strata. This is further evident from the income pattern.
Income is classified as it was done for the FSWs; the average monthly
income (individual) is Rupees 3,655 — higher t h a n the average income
observed for the sex workers. However, the average monthly family
income is more t h a n double the individual income (Rupees 7,474),
indicating t h a t there are, in general, other sources of income in the
family. Five percent of the clients live below the poverty line, while
majority are in the lower middle income group. On an average, the
clients have more t h a n two family members depending economically
upon them whereas more than 30 per cent of clients have four or more
family members depending upon them.
SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR
The average age at first sexual intercourse among the FSWs is 18.8
years with 11 per cent having had first sex before 14 years and another
21 per cent between 15-17 years. In their current profession as sex
workers, vaginal intercourse is the most frequent sexual act, 23 per
cent engage in oral sex at times, 1.4 per cent in anal sex and 2.2 per cent
had experienced violent forms of sexual behaviour (Table 5).
Clients demand for various types of sexual activities, frequently
resulting in FSWs losing clients if they refuse to engage in the sexual
acts demanded. As evident, 94 per cent of the FSWs reported that at
times clients requested for oral sex and 88 per cent reported demand for
anal sex. This would mean that when faced with severe competition
and economic pressure, FSWs might be compelled to engage in these
sexual acts, in order to avoid starvation.

Female Sex Workers and Clients 521
TABLE 5: Sexual Behaviour of FSWs and Demand from Clients*
Type of Sexual Act
Number engaged in
Number of clients
as reported by FSWs
demanding as
reported by FSWs
(Percent)
(Percent)
Sexual Intercourse
Always/Sometimes
485 (96.8)
481 (96.0)
Never
14 (2.8)
16 (3.2)
Oral Sex
Sometimes
114 (22.8)
468(93.4)
Never
385 (76.8)
29 (5.80)
Anal Sex
Sometimes
7 (1.4)
439 (87.6)
Never
492 (98.2)
58(11.6)
Note: * The total percentage does not add up to 100 since no responses are not
shown.
Such competitions and modifications in sexual behaviour can have
implications for condom use (Anil Kumar, 2004). Most of the FSWs said
that their clients used condoms regularly (99 per cent); many of them
(31 per cent) said t h a t they would refuse a client if he were not willing to
use condom. However, this information from the quantitative data is
significantly different from t h a t reported in the in-depth discussions.
Some of the FSWs told t h a t they cannot afford to lose a client as they
have to wait for days to get one. This unavailability of clients h a s
resulted in many of the FSWs become willing to engage in any sexual
act the client may ask for, even if they are aware of the danger. This
possibility may also be observed from the fact t h a t 44 per cent of the
FSWs we interviewed did not get any client on the day prior to our
interview.
The likelihood of some clients becoming frequent visitors made the
researchers focus on 'frequent clients' as a group. In our study, only 14
per cent of the FSWs said t h a t they had regular clients; in 7.4 per cent
cases the FSWs had more t h a n one regular client. Our observation and
interactions show t h a t many of the persons residing and working in the
nearby locations are clients of the FSWs. Our discussions with some of
them did reveal inconsistent condom use. Using condom is seen as an
obstacle to pleasure. Even though most of such clients we interacted
were aware of AIDS and STDs in general, there was an almost
universal hesitation to use condoms. Being frequent clients, the FSWs
also do not insist on condom use. As one of them who claimed to be a
frequent client to more t h a n one FSW said, 'contracting STD would
depend on mansthithi (by which he meant how pure one mentally is)'
that is, 'the chance of contracting STD depends on ManaSTD
(Manasthithi)'.
The number of clients available per day (average per day is 2.3 and
average on the previous day was 1.8) and the number of FSWs having

522 K. Anil Kumar
regular clients indicates the possible extent of sexual network. When
one understands that 43 per cent of the clients are currently married,
the chance of transmitting diseases if engaged in unprotected sex is
immediately evident. This is particularly important as many of the
clients said t h a t they do not use condoms with their wives. As it is,
though condom as a contraceptive is very popular in India, its use in
marital relations is very low at 3 per cent. There is no reason to expect
t h a t clients of FSWs are very different in the extent of awareness.
Regarding unmarried clients, the possibility of unprotected sex with
FSWs can have grave implications on sexual and reproductive health
for themselves and future spouses.
The clients covered in the present study were largely, not new to
visiting FSWs (Table 6). Only 15 per cent said t h a t it is their first visit,
while 72 per cent said t h a t they visited FSWs often or quite often. Mean
age at first brothel visit is 24 years; in 8 per cent, the age at first visit is
less t h a n 18 years; and in 36 per cent cases, the age at fist visit is less
t h a n 21 years. Age at first visit is between 15 and 24 years in 58.6 per
cent cases. This fact deserves serious attention and underlines the
importance of focussing the sex education programmes on young
people.
TABLE 6: Brothel Visit and Sexual Behaviour of Clients
Characteristics
Category
Number
(Per cent)
Age at First Visit (in years)
Mean age = 24.1
13-17
17 (7.9)
18-21
61 (28.4)
22-24
48 (22.3)
25-29
57 (26.5)
Above 30
32 (14.9)
Frequency of Visit
First visit
32 (14.9)
Often
35 (16,3)
Quite often
120 (55.8)
Rarely
28 (13.0)
Main Reason for Visiting Brothel For enjoyment
113(52.6)
To relieve mental tension
10 (10.2)
Has become a habit
20 (9.3)
Sexual dissatisfaction with wife
5 (2,3)
Emotional Attachment with a FSW
13 (6.0)
Lack of Privacy at home
3(1.4)
Wife not around
38 (17,7)
No response
1 (0,5)
Type of Sex with Sex Workers
Vaginal
193 (89.8)
Combination of various sex acts
22 (10,2)
N
215 (100)

Female Sex Workers and Clients 523
As people from both poor and better off socioeconomic status are
clients of FSWs, simply aiming all awareness providing efforts at the
poor (on the presumption t h a t the poor are more vulnerable) would not
suffice to counter the implications of frequent brothel visits and the
possible engagement in unprotected sex. While one may expect the
level of awareness among the better educated and the economically
forward youth to be greater, evidence indicates t h a t possession of
knowledge need not always automatically translate into non-
involvement in risk behaviours, especially for the youth.
The most frequently citied reason for brothel visit is 'for enjoyment'
followed by 'absence of wife' and to 'relieve mental tension'. Whereas 9
per cent said that visiting brothel frequently had become a habit, 6 per
cent gave emotional attachment to an FSW as the main reason for visit.
Though sexual dissatisfaction in marital relation is believed to be a
major reason for married persons to seek extramarital sex, this study
shows t h a t it is not so; only 2.3 per cent of the clients (or 5.4 per cent of
the married clients) stated this as the major reason for seeking sex from
FSWs.
The sexual behaviour pattern of clients, reported by them, deviates
from their demand pattern given by FSWs (compare Table 5 with Table
6). While the responses from FSWs indicated high demand for oral and
anal sex by clients, the actual involvement, as reported by clients, is
low. However, there can be under-reporting as clients could be
unwilling to accept their engagement in 'pervert' sexual acts.
IMPLICATIONS
In the present study, 52 per cent of the selected FSWs and close to 50
per cent of the clients said t h a t they have ever experienced at least one
STD symptom. About 16 per cent of the FSWs reported as having had at
least one abortion; of those who have had an abortion, 51 per cent had
terminated the pregnancy after three months were completed. The
proportion of delayed abortions is higher for subsequent pregnancies;
and of the 20 FSWs, who had a second abortion, 15 (or 75 per cent) had
aborted the pregnancy after the first trimester.
Some of t h e points made in the earlier sections need to be
reiterated in order to highlight their implications and for identifying
priority groups and a r e a s . About half of the FSWs are above 30 years
of age showing t h a t they would find it increasingly difficult to get
clients. This points to the urgent need to initiate rehabilitation
efforts which should begin with imparting some skills to them t h a t
would enable t h e m to obtain an alternative employment. During our
field work we observed t h a t some of t h e FSWs died. According to
other FSWs, pimps and nearby shop owners, most of t h e m h a d
contracted HIV/AIDS. Clearly, this shows the need for compulsory
HIV tests and additional efforts for care and rehabilitation of
affected FSWs and their children.

524 K. Anil Kumar
This study also shows t h a t the extent of international trafficking is
high; 16 per cent of the sample FSWs are from Nepal. Internal
trafficking is also high as seen from the reported reasons for entering
into this profession. Unless the efforts of many international
organisations, including the United Nations and the government are
further strengthened, the forces of globalisation t h a t induce migration
and aggravates marginalisation may result in an increased extent of
both internal and international trafficking. Though our question
regarding current age showed only one FSW as below 18 years, the
query on the age at entry into the profession revealed t h a t 44 percent
entered into sex work when they were below 18 years. This indirect
observation indicates the possibility of over-reporting of current age in
some cases of the younger sex workers and, thus, the chances of the
existence of child prostitution.
Though the overall average number of children per FSW is 1, and if
we consider only the married sex workers, data shows t h a t they have,
on an average, two children. The arrangement for child care is still
inadequate and there is substantial chance for many of the girl children
ending up in the same profession. Interventions are urgently needed
not only for the immediate care (like night shelters for children, while
their mothers are at work), but also for development of the children in a
healthy atmosphere.
As other researches have also observed, economic reasons and
desertion by lover or husband continues to be major factors compelling
women to involuntarily enter into the sex trade. Another important
reason cited by a majority of female sex workers is to 'enjoy life and
make money; and this requires serious attention of interventionists.
The information explosion during the last few years, including
increasing access to the Internet and mobile phones particularly to the
youngsters of both urban and r u r a l areas of India, has had impact on
their attitude towards life and lifestyles. 'Making money and enjoying
life' is becoming more and more a prime concern of many young people.
The desire to enjoy luxuries may lure more youngsters into sex work,
through the modus operandi may be substantially different from what
we see in red light areas.
Among the clients, 33 per cent are from the youth age group 15-24
years; this is far higher t h a n their proportion in the total population
(about 20 per cent). A large proportion of younger clients are outside the
formal education system, while most of the interventions directed at
youth address those who are still with the education system. The
findings also show t h a t the proportion of clients from the better off
socioeconomic strata is considerable, contrary to the widely held notion.
Thus, it is imperative to extend the current interventions to address
the issues related to the sexuality of those from middle and upper class
backgrounds, with a special focus on young people. Similar is the
finding t h a t 43 per cent of the selected clients are currently married;

Female Sex Workers and Clients 525
this also belies the belief t h a t mostly those visit the FSWs are
unmarried or divorced/widowed males. Among the married clients, 39
per cent are currently staying with their wife. This points to the
possible sexual networks among the diverse groups of clients and h a s
implications for contracting diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Interventions since the 1990s have succeeded in significantly
improving the extent of condom use by clients, but in many cases at the
insistence of the FSW. Not many client-based innovative strategies are
designed to address the issues in condom use because clients, as a
group, remain largely inaccessible. Research studies, as well as
interventions, still focus mainly on the FSWs putting them under
severe pressure, forcing them to choose between survival of two kinds
— 'survival without food' and 'survival without STD'.
While clients, as a group, was largely ignored in interventions,
attempts were made to target specific groups like 'frequent clients'. In
the present study though only 14 per cent of sex workers reported
having frequent clients, the brothel visit pattern of clients shows t h a t
56 per cent visited the brothel 'quite often' and another 16 per cent
'often' visited brothels. This shows t h a t a majority of clients are
frequent visitors to brothels, though not a frequent visitor to the same
FSW. Thus, 'frequent clients', as a group, exist in Mumbai city and
focused interventions targeting this group are required to address
sexuality issues, including regular use of condom.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The research reported in this paper was funded by the Centre for Health Studies, at
the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, through a grant from the Ford
Foundation.
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