Sex workers are 12 times more likely to get infected with HIV
Sex workers are at a very high risk of contracting HIV due to multiple sexual partners and their inconsistent condom use. Due to the marginalization and criminalization of sex workers, access to healthcare and social services is limited and often unavailable. Sex workers also do not always have control over their working conditions, making it even more difficult to ensure safe sex practices.
Sex workers are also likely to be victims of extreme sexual violence such as gang rape and forced unprotected sex, increasing their risk of HIV infection even more.
Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
Globally, there are an estimated 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation.
Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade.
From Polaris Project
Survival sex is not a financial transaction, but rather the exchange of one’s body for goods that fulfill basic human needs such as clothing, food, and shelter. Close to 1/3 of homeless youth end up engaging in survival sex for many purposes, shelter and protection being the primary ones.
One reason that homeless and runaway youth turn to survival sex is past abuse, as a background of past abuse often trains children to see dysfunctional relationships as part of the norm. Another reason, aside from necessity, is that homeless and runaway youth often lack knowledge about alternatives that are available to them, such as shelter and housing options.
“To the extent that [survival sex] can be considered a choice, it is born out of the fact that there are no other choices.”
-Meredith Dank, Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute
Survival Sex and LGBTQ Youth
A 2015 study of LGBTQ teens who engaged in survival sex found that homelessness is the primary reason that these teens turn to survival sex at high rates. A previous study of LGBTQ teens in New York also showed that LGBTQ youth were seven times more likely to engage in survival sex than heterosexual teens, and that transgender teens were eight times more likely.
The reasons for these startling statistics are numerous, and include care systems that fail in specific ways to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth. For example, the homeless shelter system is often difficult for queer or transgender teens to maneuver, as gender segregation is a key characteristic and can result in feelings of alienation.
Survival Sex and Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking is treated differently than survival sex, as sex trafficking involves force, fraud, coercion, or underage commercial sex. However, survival sex and sex trafficking overlap in important ways, and unfortunately, survival sex can serve as a segue into sex trafficking. Frequently, pimps and other exploiters are able to seek out youths who are already engaging in survival sex, and force or coerce them into sex trafficking. The relationship between survival sex and sex trafficking also flows in the other direction, with victims of sex trafficking escaping their situations only to find that survival sex was their best and sometimes only option.
To learn more about human trafficking...
All graphics by Jaclyn Saik