Lunchtime series: Impact of discrimination and stigma on street sex workers (Part 1)

Dr Rachel Bonnici shares insights

July 1, 2021


Cis-women street-based sex-workers are more likely to have experienced historical traumas. Many have been through instutionalisation, including foster care, residential care and even jail. These women have learned to escape their traumas through substance abuse – the most likely drug of choice being heroin. As a result, they self-sustain through survival sex work. The majority of these cis-women have experienced stigma and discrimination from a socio-ecological perspective. For instance, policies and historical regulations and the justice system have fed into stigma, and the media tends to propagate it through the use of stigma-loaded narratives and language. Community businesses such as the police and healthcare providers also stigmatise and discriminate against these women resulting in their reluctance to access the care they need. Intimate-partner violence is a major concern for these women  and they often experience it throughout most of their relationships. Of the most violent, are some of the clients who will sexually and physically assault women, as they are seen as unworthy and considered second class citizens. Stigma and discrimination is detrimental to the psychological and physical health of these women and can exacerbate their drug use and lead to many problems in their lives.

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