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Yoga for sex workers

July 24th, 2006

Dr Petra

Today’s Hindustan Times outlines a new initiative to help look after the physical and emotional health of sex workers. The organisation Bhartiya Patita Uddhar Samiti and the Friends Society will be working together to teach Yoga to prostitutes.

The first session has begun in Shivdaspur run by Swamy Yogeshwaranand.

The philosophy behind the initiative is that yoga will help sex workers stay mentally and physically fit, and reduce the exhaustion that can result from seeing clients. According to organisers sex can cause vaginal pain and emotional stress and yoga will help sex workers enjoy acts that ordinarily are mundane or unpleasant.

The scheme will be rolled out across India with plans to run yoga classes in 1100 red light areas.

Yoga has already effectively been used to enhance flexibility and stamina, enhance sexual pleasure and reduce sexual dysfunctions. It has also been used in other health programmes to increase physical and mental wellbeing. Spirituality has also had a long history of being linked to sex work.

I suspect that critics of this scheme may be concerned that yoga will be used to help sex workers cope with unpleasant or boring aspects of their jobs rather than on strategies to overcome poverty or enable those who wish to exit prostitution. It is worrying that one of the problems these sex workers are regularly encountering (that yoga will overcome) is vaginal pain – which could be a symptom of a more serious problem and shouldn’t be ignored.

However I think any programme that could enhance wellbeing, confidence and physical awareness is worth trying. I hope that organisers, rather than just assuming it works will go to the trouble of fully evaluating their scheme so that if it is a success it can be used to help sex workers in other countries.

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