Reviews | Health insurance for sex workers in India

Recently, the honorable Supreme Court of India issued a historic judgment recognizing prostitution as a “profession”. The judgment further adds that sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection before the law. The Court also ordered that sex workers not be arrested, penalized, harassed or victimized during brothel raids since voluntary sex work is not illegal; however, it is still illegal to operate brothels.

However, since prostitution is recognized as a “profession”, it is equally important that, like any other profession, it also receives insurance coverage. Generally, there are three types of insurance coverage that a person in a profession can choose from: life insurance, health insurance, and partial/total permanent disability coverage.

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In India, very few insurers offer life insurance coverage to sex workers and that too with a very small sum insured due to the high risk associated with this profession. There may be hardly any companies that offer health insurance coverage for sex workers. Access to health care is a human right for all and is enshrined in Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Partial/total permanent disability insurance is a sine qua non for any professional. In the event of partial disability, the injured employee is still able to work, but not with the skills and efficiency demonstrated before the injury. As a result, the earning capacity of the worker is affected. On the other hand, permanent disability (PI) is any long-lasting disability resulting from an accident at work or illness that affects a person’s ability to earn a living. Insurance policies provide much needed relief for partial and total permanent disabilities to an individual.

Read also | India’s Supreme Court panel recommends that voluntary sex work is not illegal

In the same vein, although it may sound strange but true, in the case of sex workers, their body parts, for example the sexual organs, form the basis of their income generation. In case the sexual organs are damaged due to injury, venereal diseases, etc., it will affect their ability to earn a living. Thus, the insurance of body parts becomes essential. If someone in another profession can apply for insurance coverage for loss of earnings due to partial/total permanent disability, then why can’t there be similar insurance coverage for sex workers for insure their body parts?

The media reported that celebrities also insured their body parts, for example, legs, buttocks, smile, breasts, etc. Rihanna insured her legs for $1 million; Heidi Klum insured her legs for $2 million; Jamie Lee Curtis insured his legs for $2.8 million; Tina Turner insured her legs for $3.2 million; Michael Flatley insured his legs for $40 million; David Beckham insured his legs for $70 million; Cristiano Ronaldo insured his legs for $144 million and Mariah Carey insured her legs for $1 billion.

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On the other hand, celebrities who have insured their butts include Jennifer Lopez with $300 million butt insurance coverage; Kylie Minogue insured her butt for $5 million. Celebrities who have insured their smiles include America Ferrara with $10 million insurance coverage and Julia Roberts with $30 million coverage. Holly Madison and Madonna have insured their breasts for $1 million and $2 million respectively. Additionally, Bette Davis insured her height for $28,000; Jimmy Durante insured his nose for $50,000; Keith Richards insured his hands for $1.6 million and Bruce Springsteen insured his vocal cords for $6 million.

Due to social exclusion and stigmatization of sex workers, insurance coverage of sex workers’ body parts seems a remote possibility and may take years before a such insurance cover does not appear in India. However, the government can take the necessary steps to provide medical facilities for sex workers. The government may provide health insurance at a subsidized rate for prostitutes to make health facilities affordable and accessible.

(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also does not endorse the views of the author.).

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