Thu | Oct 29, 2020

Rough & Risky - Female sex workers face rape, assault and jail

Published:Tuesday | July 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
In this January 2016 photo, police detain a group of alleged female street sex workers in Montego Bay, St James.

Almost one in every four female sex workers who participated in a recent survey reported being raped at least once in their life.

An equal number of exotic dancers also reported being raped in the 4th Generational Bio-Behavioural Surveillance Survey of female sex workers, female patrons and workers at places where persons meet sex partners or participate in sexual activity in exchange for money.

The survey was conducted between August and November last year in 11 of the island's 14 parishes, with St Mary, Portland and St Thomas excluded.

It sought reactions from 1,258 female sex workers, 980 exotic dancers and 858 workers at 585 sites where people meet new sex partners in Jamaica.

It found that most persons in the sex industry had experienced dangerous adverse events and recommended that the vulnerability of sex workers need to be addressed.

The study found that 40.6 per cent of street sex workers reported spending a night in jail. Other workers in the industry, including 34.5 per cent of dancers, 24.1 per cent of other sex workers, 18.8 per cent of workers and 17.1 per cent of patrons also spent a night in jail.

"Almost one-quarter (22.7 per cent) of sex workers reported being raped, with street sex workers and dancers recording the highest incidence of rape," the study reported.

"Reported violent attacks by clients were highest among street sex workers (38.5 per cent), followed by other sex workers (27.2 per cent), dancers (22.9 per cent), workers (10.5 per cent) and patrons (5.6 per cent)," the report said.

The study also found that having slept outside, or in a shelter for the homeless, was the least reported adverse event for persons in the sex industry.

The principal investigators, Dr Nicola Skyers and Marion Scott, further reported that incomplete education and early child bearing were the main socio-economic drivers and underlying determinants of entry into sex work.

"The vulnerability created by poverty and lack of social support was also manifested in the adverse events recorded among participants.

"Interventions to reduce socio-economic vulnerability among female sex workers should be strengthened and may require partnerships and structural approaches that go beyond the remit of the HIV/STI programme and the Ministry of Health," the researchers recommended.

The bio-behavioural surveillance survey was done to, among other things, determine the prevalence and incidence of HIV and syphilis among high-risk women, to estimate the female sex workers population size and to determine the effectiveness of prevention interventions among female sex workers.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com