STIGMA, DISCRIMINATION OF SEX WORKERS.
Sex work is criminalised or regulated in almost all parts of the world (Harcourt, Egger, & Donovan, 2005).
Criminalization is associated with legal penalties for engaging in transactional sex, while regulation refers to tight controls over the business of sex workers, such as mandatory registration, legal restrictions on movement between certain areas or countries, coercive sexual health testing and treatment (Scarlet Alliance, 1999) and, in some parts of the world, calls for forced sterilisation (Center for Health and Gender Equity, 2016; SBS, 2017).Despite the fact that sex work is not criminalized in Nigeria, Sex workers face all sort of stigmatization and discrimination, this has a lot of effects on their health.
Stigmatization and discrimination strongly impact the mental health of sex workers, for this reason, sex workers suffer isolation. To buttress the above assertion, Vanwesenbeeck, (2005)opined that “More than 70% of the respondents said isolation impacts mental health to a very great extent.
The modality of sex work can also influence their ability to work with colleagues vs working alone. Participants in a focus group conducted by Vanwesenbeeck, indicated that the loneliness inherent to escorting was difficult to handle.This is as a result of the ill treatment by the society. Sex workers are human, why subject them to poor health, violence among more?
Another impact of stigma on mental health is the underlying assumption that sex workers are victims. According to a sex worker in Finland “As sex workers we are not asked our opinions, we are not heard, it is others who make the decisions and people think somehow that we are incapable of choosing for ourselves. We are not asked what we think is the best for us”.
This infantilisation of sex workers may create negative self-images and negatively impact their mental health. The need for sex workers to be involved in decisions that concerns them is pertinent, this will go a long way in changing the negative perception of the society about sex work.
No doubt, Stigma acts as an umbrella factor that intertwines with many other structural factors influencing the mental health of sex workers, such as criminalisation or violence, cultural and societal norms and religious beliefs. In view of the above, it is necessary that the society stop discrimination, stigmatization and come in terms with the fact that Sex Work is Work and sex Workers Mental Health Matters.