The sex industry is as old as human civilization. From the ancient cities of Babylon and Mesopotamian empire to the present day, this is an industry that hasn't show any signs of slowing down. The industry which is usually associated as a speakeasy and not a highly spoken of one is widespread with an increase in globalization and has become increasingly common. The distinct divide in income and employment opportunities between the classes also influences the industry where some portions of the society have an ever-growing disposable income while others struggle to make ends meet.
This created a market where individuals would provide service in return for money to supplement their income while others had the money to pay for their services. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the growing demand for sex work coincides with the growth in global numbers of human trafficking. Men and women are coerced into this profession, and there is no concern for their emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. This shows that the view of the world towards the global sex industry is that of a complacent one, rather than something seen as a softer concern filled industry.
The world governments’ stance on this topic certainly isn't helping. Many cases of atrocities against sex workers have been brushed aside as a mere occupational hazard. This form of unregulated labor is bound to breed power abuse by those who control and run the business. The middlemen connecting the worker to the client often enforce deplorable living conditions on the individual. This is not just limited to developing or underdeveloped countries, it extends well into the global economic powerhouses, and it's a tale as old as time. Many people still view sex work as not a dignified work status to have, and this shows that a drastic mindset shift is needed in order to work towards the economic, social & mental well-being of those involved.
Current day sex industry & the role of technology
The internet has definitely got the world on one tabletop, easily reachable platform, where anything and everything can be accessed from any and every part of the world. The same is valid for sex work. While it has provided sex workers the freedom to choose their clientele, perform checks and screening before reaching an agreement, it has also separated and isolated them. Of course, technology has provided a platform for secretive dealing, working from private addresses and avoiding legal actions but it has also brought about the end of the traditional form of solidarity which often protected the health and safety of the community. Given the nature of the work, the participants are always at a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI), which brings us to the next point of the discussion: What role does sex work play in the spread of STIs?
The correlation between sex work & spread of STIs
Multiple studies suggest that sex work isn't central to the spread of STDs and STIs. There is no direct causation or correlation for that matter, between the spread of STIs and sex work. In most first-world countries, where appropriate health care is available, the rate of contracting STDs among sex workers is significantly less, compared to regions where access to safe sex is complicated. There is a need for localized and region-specific intervention to complement generalized intervention methods. Governments and research groups need to work with those involved in understanding the intricacies involving health risks particular to that specific region, gather feedback, and adopt effective measures accordingly.
Rehabilitation and not a stigma-driven intervention is the answer
For long, sex work has been stigmatized and demonized, which has done more harm than good. Multiple interventions have solidified the idea that sex work inherently helps spread diseases, without understanding the geological nuances. The need of the hour is rehabilitation programs that promote the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of the workers. The focus should be on making health care affordable and resources readily accessible, rather than drawing conclusions based on prejudiced social understanding. Based on successful intervention campaigns run by organizations and research groups across the world, it is clear that sustained and targeted intervention is instrumental in reducing the risk of STIs and promote mental and physical wellbeing of those involved. Health care services like frequent risk assessment tests, checkup routines, regular screening tests as well as access to contraceptive devices and safety resources, and therapy sessions could aid in that effort.
All in all, a holistic, and not a one-time approach is the way to go forward with the economics, social and mental well-being of those involved