Sex workers’ armour, Female Condom

Though female condoms have found no many takers, sex workers call it their diamond armour. They not only use it when their clients refuse to wear a regular condom, but also use it when they have their menses, so that they don’t have to lose out on their earnings during those days.

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“Female condom is like mythological character Karna’s diamond armour for us. Before this we were at the mercy of clients, and couldn’t do anything when clients refused to wear condoms,” said Radhika (38), who was a sex worker and is now working as Field Supervisor of Suraksha, a NGO.

Though sex workers insist on condoms, some clients force them to have sex without a condom. It is then that the female condoms come to their rescue. “It is usually goondas and policemen who want to have sex without condoms. They don’t even pay us. There are some clients too who force us to have unsafe sex and pay more. There are some, who tear the tip of the regular condom and come out,” said Geetha (30), General Secreatary, Karnataka Sex Workers Union.

Geetha has herself become a victim of Sexually Transmitted Infections. “Some years ago, I was in desperate need of money, and agreed to have sex without condoms for a higher price. Later I got boils on my private part, and was healed after medication. At that time there were no female condoms too,” she said.

Besides safety, female condoms are also used by sex workers during their menses. “For some of us, periods last for a week and forgoing our earnings for a week every month is a huge loss. So we wear female condoms at that time. It blocks the blood and the clients too don’t come to know that we are wearing a condom or that we are having our periods,” said Radhika.

The other advantage of female condoms is that that the man doesn’t get to know if the woman is wearing it. “It is like a tube and goes inside the vagina, and clients don’t get to know. We either wear it before meeting the client, or go to the toilet and wear it just before the act,” she said.

Radhika says that in Channapatna taluk alone, she distributes over 150 female condoms every month. This is besides the regular male condoms. “Sex workers take three to four female condoms in a week,” she said.

While one female condom costs Rs 70 in the market, the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust distributes it to sex workers for Rs 5 per condom. “I tell them that they spend Rs 5 for flowers which dry away, while this condom can safeguard them,” said Radhika.


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