Abuse on the streets

VERBAL, sexual and physical abuses are some of the factors affecting the mental health of sex workers on the streets of Lautoka.

This was highlighted during a meeting organised by Lautoka-based NGO Pacific Rainbow Advocacy Network (PRAN) for sex workers on Saturday.

Speaking during the informal talanoa session, a former sex worker highlighted the abuse she had faced on the streets while she was involved in the trade.

Serah Lee, who worked on the streets for a number of years but left three years ago, said some of the vilest comments were always delivered by those from the same racial groups as the sex workers themselves.

Ms Lee said such actions had a lasting impact on the workers. She said people needed to learn how to respect everyone regardless of their lifestyle, sexual orientation or gender.

According to PRAN, the issue is not a new one.

PRAN peer educator Polly McGoon said it was an everyday treatment.

“It doesn’t just stop with being a sex worker, it also comes when you are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) so you are stigmatised not only for one thing but two,” he said.

Mr McGoon said when those involved in the trade turned to family, they were often shunned with nowhere to go.

“It’s been here for a long time but the advocacy is going. However, we have been verbally, physically and sexually abused and more importantly, the mental abuse is done on a daily basis.”

Mr McGoon said some sex workers he knew had committed suicide because they could not withstand the torment.

Youth Champs 4 Mental Health president Lionel Rogers encouraged the sex workers to remain positive, even in the face of adversity.

“Whenever someone throws (derogatory) words at you, just remember that it is their opinion,” he said.

“You need to believe in yourselves and live life with a smile on your faces.”

He also encouraged sex workers to talk to peers about their issues and seek counselling services if the need arose.

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