Bengaluru: Sex work goes online as new norms ban touch – Times of India - Freelance Rack

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bengaluru: Sex work goes online as new norms ban touch – Times of India

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BENGALURU: The new normal post the Covid-19 outbreak has hit commercial sex workers in Bengaluru, with most clients preferring to stay away from them fearing physical contact. But some tech-savvy sex workers have taken their trade online via videotelephony platforms and are accepting payments through e-wallets.
On Sunday evening, businessman Sanjesh Thomas was readying his laptop in Kochi for a Zoom session with his ‘girlfriend’ in Kadubeesanahalli, Bengaluru. Thomas used to frequent the city to spend time with his friend, a commercial sex worker, but the lockdown put paid to his travel plans.
“We’re keeping in touch online. She has shared her Zoom ID and password and has given me a specific time to join,” said the 39-year-old, who has been conversing with her via video calls.
Clients are charged on an hourly basis for the online rendezvous and payment is made through e-wallets. “It’s like someone has applied brakes on our livelihood. I had to go online to keep my clients, otherwise they would have found someone else,” said Thomas’s friend who identified herself as Rose. Some sex workers like Rose stream to multiple clients and charge more for group sessions.
“Most clients want to cheat us as our work is taboo. Therefore, I ensure upfront payment of Rs 1,000 for a 30-minute online session through Paytm or Google Pay before starting the video chat,” said Roopa, a transgender from Hennur. Roopa turns Jasmin online and is active on various platforms, including a few gay dating apps.
Shubha Chacko of Solidarity Foundation, an NGO working for the welfare of sex workers, termed the virtual switch a ‘survival mechanism.’ “Many have been badly affected and those at the grassroot level are struggling with social distancing being the norm. A few tech-savvy ones have taken the online route, but they are a very small percentage and mostly from the higher strata,” said Chacko.
Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology and coordinator of the Services for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at Nimhans, believes online streaming by sex workers may be a question of livelihood for them but for clients, it provides a sense of extreme high. “It can become addictive for the receiver as many indulging in such acts experience disinhibition online as opposed to real life. For some, it’s a novelty to kill boredom during the lockdown,” Sharma added.
(Some names have been changed to protect identities)

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