Gowri* is a 35-year-old sex worker with a daily clientele. She has two regular intimate partners, with whom she reports being very compatible. As a result, she does not experience violence in intimate relationships. Given the intimacy and trust she enjoys with them, she does not use condoms in their intimate relationships.
Gowri attended the Samvedana Plus group reflection sessions conducted at village level and completed all the sessions. She reported enjoying the sessions on education around condom use and the increased need for their use within intimate relationships, she said:
“We believe and trust our intimate partner so much that we do not use condoms. Now I realise the chances of he (him) having relationships with other women. The life of too many people gets spoiled. Now I am scared of the complications. Being aware woman, I am now using female condoms to protect myself from being vulnerable to many STIs. Initially, I had fear but now I am rid of it after using it (condoms)”.
The Samvedana project, a What Works to prevent violence against women and girls programme, funded by UKAID, seeks to reduce violence and increase condom use in the intimate partnerships of female sex workers (FSWs). It intervenes with men who perpetuate violence, women who experience abuse and the wider society, in order to change gender norms that are disempowering to women. The programme is being implemented in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, South India, and seeks to understand the influence of structural factors (e.g. intimate partner violence) on HIV risk and vulnerability in FSWs intimate partnerships.
The multi- pronged intervention has been designed and implemented at the level of a.) Individual FSWs and their intimate partners (IPs); b.) Board members, staff, and crisis management teams of FSW Community Based Organizations (CBO) s; and c.) The wider community, where FSWs and their partners live (i.e. via community leaders, neighbours, Panchayati Raj institutions and Self Help Groups (SHG).
The project staff have observed some early changes in the field among the FSWs, and their partners. The FSWs report being better able to recognize violence, negotiate for condom use and awareness of unsafe sex practices. On the other hand, the intimate partners of FSWs are also beginning to recognize the need for violence free relationships. The multi-pronged intervention also aimed at the community for awareness-raising on intimate partner violence, domestic violence and the law, and social norms within the society has enabled them to support survivors of women, thereby creating an enabling environment for women survivors within the target villages.