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Impact Driven Conversations

Aug 10, 2021

Bias and inequality are experienced by those working as sex workers as they are not protected and not that recognized by the government and society. The inequality has resulted in over-policing and worse, harassment of those in the sex workers community.  It also resulted in right deprivation and sex workers have been treated with violence and discrimination. 

Hareesh will join us in this episode of the Impact Driven Conversations Podcast. He will share how he gets into the field of social work and helping people, what drove him to do the job. He will also discuss the bias and inequalities experienced by sex workers and those that belong in the LGBT community. 

You are about to hear an episode that will surely enlighten you and make you aware of the inequalities experienced by sex workers. This podcast will reveal the disparities towards sex workers, and what the community and government are capable of doing to eradicate the inequality and establish fairness, and gender equality.

The difference in how the sex worker community is being treated:

Hareesh’s journey as a social worker made him witness the transition as to how the sex workers are being treated all over the years. According to him, there were changes throughout those years. Biases, harassment, and inequality have been experienced by many and it took years for them to stop the unlawful activities done towards those in the said community.

He also said that 60-70% of government and society perceptions have changed through time. 

Harassment encountered by the sex worker community: 

  1. Harassment from police officials
  2. Trafficking
  3. Gender inequality
  4. Unsafe workplace

Problems and struggles faced by sex workers

According to Hareesh, 20% are getting into the profession by force or trafficking. Some get to do sex work by force because of different family situations and lack of education. But on a brighter note, Hareesh has also witnessed those that left and stopped as sex workers after they were able to get a different job or due to the fact that they have been able to educate their children to be doctors and engineers.

How sex workers cope with their mental state

The mental state of the sex workers depends on whichever phase they are in. He also stated that the proper use of condoms affects how they can control their minds since it affects them both physically and mentally. Incidents such as clients not using the condom could affect them and disable them to speak out with the fact that the client is the one paying them. 

When the client and situation are good, they will be able to accept the work and it changes their mental state in a positive way. 

How can people help the LGBT and sex workers community?

Things have been hard for those in the marginalized communities and have been experiencing negative impacts economically. However, people can still help in ways available. They should be offered more opportunities that generate good income, they should also be offered loans that they can use to set up small businesses and other options that could benefit them.

How the government addressed the inequality 

As stated by Hareesh, the government has now provided opportunities for those in the sex work and LGBT community. Transgenders have been selected as police inspectors, sometimes they are accepted in the jail courts to work.  To conclude, change is visible though it is still gradually progressing.

What changes would Hareesh wants to see in the future

According to Hareesh, he wants people to be smart and use technology wisely. He also wants people to become financially literate and become aware of their rights, their properties, and many more. Hareesh is looking to build a regenerative community. One that supports itself through the assets that it has. Instead of using outside investment as a means to uplift the community, Hareesh’s model uses local assets for local reinvestment. Thus creating a regenerative community-driven economics model. One that can be a game-changer in future community management and sustainability. 

Goals and Visions Established by Swathi Mahila Sangha

  • To further introduce equality towards sex workers in India, Swathi Mahila Sangha has been established for the following goals, mission, and vision: 
  • Vibrant and sustainable Swathi Mahila Sangha improving women's lives by responding effectively to the needs of every woman
  • Providing high-quality services and facilities in accordance with the requirements of Swathi women with self-funded and capacitated human resources

The organization also focuses on two things: 

  • Prevent HIV/AIDS & STIs among women in sex work
  • Improve overall quality of life of women in sex work

All programs of SMS are based on human rights which embodies dignity, rights, and development.

  • Empowerment & Dignity
  • Raise consciousness to have control over resources with the overarching principle of preserving dignity
  • Sexual Health & Empowerment Program



 Hareesh B.S is the CEO of Swathi Group of Organizations. Swathi Mahila Sangha (SMS) is a women-led Community-based organization (CBO) for sex work in Karnataka. It has over 13,000 active Women Sex Workers (WSW) as its members and provides services to 21,000 sex workers. SMS was started as a collective by these women in 2003 and is now a legally registered body under Karnataka Societies Act. Its vision is to address the needs of every sex worker and it aims to support the equity, equality, dignity, and empowerment of WSW.  It seeks to build the capacities of WSW by enhancing their knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to safeguard their lives and livelihood. Its aim is to mainstream the most marginalized women by providing healthcare services, financial security, social protection services, and legal rights. Hareesh is also an Experienced Chief Operating Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the development sector with institutional building, community system strengthening, financial inclusion, program management, advocacy, and people engagement.


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