In order to adapt to the ongoing coronavirus crisis and social distancing norms, sex workers have decided to go online. Despite relaxations provided by state governments in green, orange and red zones, clients are shying away from sex workers fearing physical contact.
This has forced them to embrace technology as many have started offering services via video chats and are accepting payments through e-wallets.
One businessman, Sanjesh Thomas*, who used to frequently visit a sex worker in Bengaluru, has put a stop on his travel plans due to the lockdown. He now spends time with her on Zoom, reported The Times of India.
"We are keeping in touch through video calling. She shares her Zoom ID and password and gives me a specific time to join the session," said the 39-year-old businessman.
In the online setup, clients are charged on an hourly basis and payments are made online beforehand.
"There was no other option left. We had to go online, otherwise our clients would have found someone else," said Thomas' friend Rose*. Some sex-workers stream online to multiple clients.
Another sex worker, Roopa*, said she ensures payments are done prior to the session because many clients tend to not pay.
"Many clients want to cheat us. Therefore, I demand an upfront payment of Rs 1,000 for a 30-minute online session. I ensure that payment has been made through Paytm or Google Pay before starting the video chat," said Roopa, a transgender, who is active on various online platforms, including a few gay dating apps.
Meanwhile, Subha Chako of Solidarity Foundation, which works for the welfare of sex workers, termed their move a "survival mechanism."
"Sex workers are among those worst-hit due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing norms. Few tech-savvy ones have moved online. However, they form a very small percentage," Chako said.
Dr Manoj Kumar, professor of clinical psychology and coordinator of the Services for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic, believes that while streaming might be a question of survival for sex workers, it provides a sense of extreme high for clients.
"Online streaming can become addictive for some as it gives extreme high. It may also be a means to kill time during the lockdown," Kumar said.
(*: Names changed to protect identity)Follow Moneycontrol's full coverage on the coronavirus pandemic here