Sri Lanka

Increase in North commercial sex

Visaka Dharmadasa from the Association of War Affected Women in Sri Lanka outlines the gendered impacts of conflict in the country, making the direct linkage between men going missing or being killed, and women heads of households being driven into sex work as the last resort to counter the immense pressure on them to provide for their families. Visaka is one of GPPAC's Gender Focal Points in the South Asia region.

Increase in North commercial sex

October 11, 2013

With more women taking up as family breadwinners in Sri Lanka's former war zone – the island's north – the region is recording an increase in women turning to survival sex, the IRIN website reported.

According to estimates by local groups working with women to boost their incomes, the number of women engaged in sex work is said to be as many as 7,000, considered by some as a conservative estimate.

 Vishaka Dharmadasa, head of the Association of War Affected Women, a northern-based NGO working with sex workers, told IRIN: "This was a new finding during a [local] household survey on women-headed households and livelihood requirements. They are under immense pressure to provide for families in homes where men are either dead or reported missing. It has made a sizeable percentage of women to reluctantly turn to sex work."

The government estimates there were over 59,000 women-headed households in the island's north in 2012.

"They bear economic burdens once carried by their fathers, husbands or brothers. Poverty and lack of options are driving women to adopt commercial sex as an income generator," Dharmadasa added.

She told IRIN the "strong" military presence in the north, along with men from the south taking jobs in the north's building boom, were "somewhat regular reasons for an increase in commercial sex".

In addition, an increased number of Sri Lankan-born Tamils from the diaspora visiting their place of origin since fighting ended four years ago, has also increased demand for commercial sex, Shanthini Vairamuttu, a community worker from the district of Jaffna, told IRIN.

Published in Colombo Gazette.

Share this article on