Health

COVID-19: Sex workers face tough time in Odisha’s port town Paradip

They are not being able to find customers among the crews of passing ships because of the fear of disease

 
By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 09 March 2020
Health officials aboard a ship in Paradip port to examine crew members. Photo: Ashis Senapati
Health officials aboard a ship in Paradip port to examine crew members. Photo: Ashis Senapati Health officials aboard a ship in Paradip port to examine crew members. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Sex workers in Odisha’s port town of Paradip are having a hard time ever since the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) spread across the globe.

Most of the nearly 350 sex workers in the town are not getting any clients after the spread of the disease, Biraja Pati, the secretary of Nature's Club, a social organisation that runs the Targeted Intervention Project among sex workers under the Odisha State AIDS Control Society in many areas of Odisha, told Down To Earth (DTE).

Panic struck the port town recently after a crew member of a ship, ‘Chemstar Stellar’ and his wife took ill and were admitted at the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack on March 2, 2020.

“Though the couple tested negative for COVID-19, many of our clients are now fearing to come to the small huts of sex workers in Paradip’s slums. What’s going on worries us,” a sex worker in her twenties, who stays in the town’s Ghaanaghlia slum, said.

“Most of the crew members of ships are also our customers. Recently, the Paradip Port Trust (PPT) decided not to provide shore leave to the crew members of the ships that have recently sailed through China and other affected countries. As a result, we are not getting any such clients,” another sex worker in Paradip told DTE.

“Many of our local customers are now reluctant to touch anyone and are wearing masks. We hope the fear of coronavirus will vanish soon and we will get clients,” she added.

The COVID-19 scare has hit the rates of sex workers.

Since the crisis hit Paradip, the average price for sex with a prostitute has plummeted to Rs 200-300 from Rs 500-2,000. “Some sex workers just do it for a meagre amount as they need to eat for their survival,” admitted another sex worker in Paradip.

“Daily updates of crews’ health status has been made mandatory for all vessels, until they are moored in Paradip’s waters. The people of Paradip are being made aware about the symptoms and preventive measures, through messages displayed in big electronic boards in the township,” Rinkesh Roy, the chairman of PPT, said.

COVID-19 began in late December 2019 in China’s Wuhan city and has caused the deaths of more than 3,000 people globally.

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