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Apparel workers turning into sex workers

8 months ago

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  • Fear of being laid off driving female employees towards prostitution
By Dinitha Rathnayake There is a growing trend of women employed in the textile industry resorting to sex work for their financial survival amidst the fear of being laid off by their employers due to the economic crisis, The Morning learns. An investigation by The Morning has revealed that many female workers, afraid of losing their jobs in the textile industry due to the current situation, are searching for alternative employment to ensure an income. “We heard that we could lose our jobs due to the economic crisis in the country and the best solution we can see at the moment is sex work. Our monthly salary is around Rs. 28,000, and the maximum we could earn is Rs. 35,000 with over time. But through engaging in sex work, we are able to earn more than Rs. 15,000 per day. Not everyone will agree with me, but this is the truth,” one such female worker told The Morning. “I’m from a rural village and the only breadwinner of my family. I cannot go home; and without a job, I cannot survive. I know there are people who make a lot of money from sex work. They live next to our boarding places. At first, I didn’t like it, but now I don’t see any other option,” another female worker explained. Meanwhile, Ashila Dandeniya, Executive Director of Stand Up Movement Lanka (SUML) – the country’s leading advocacy group for sex workers – said they are experiencing an increase in unsafe pregnancies and prostitution among textile workers. Opportunities in agriculture are currently unavailable to women, as yields dropped by up to 50% last year and a high proportion of the country’s farmland remains idle after then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned the import of chemical fertilisers in May 2021. Dandeniya described a “huge movement” of women into Colombo since January, many arriving from Sri Lanka’s remote villages. The majority of the women previously worked in garment factories. “These women have only worked in the garment industry for their entire lives. They have no professional training to find other, skilled work,” she added. However, sex workers are also affected by the current shortages of fuel and power. One sex worker said that before the crisis, she was able to earn Rs. 20,000 per day, but now she earns only Rs. 3,000 per week. “We need to pay for taxis and the rates are high due to the increase in fuel. Sometimes we think we have made the wrong decision. We gave up our permanent jobs and we now cannot survive on the choice that we made.”

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