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Women brothel workers and occupational health risks
  1. J Cwikel1,
  2. K Ilan1,
  3. B Chudakov2
  1. 1Center for Women’s Health Studies and Promotion and Department of Social Work
  2. 2Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor J Cwikel
 Ben Gurion University of the Negev, POB 653, Beer Sheva, 84105, Israel;


Study objectives: This study examined working conditions, reported morbidity, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression and their relation to an index of occupational health risk among women working in brothels in Israel.

Design: Personal structured interviews with a scale of occupational risk that included seven self report items reflecting past and present morbidity and symptoms.

Participants and setting: A purposive sample of 55 women in three cities in Israel, between the ages of 18–38.

Main results: Most (82%) women were trafficked into Israel to work illegally in prostitution, effectively deriving them of access to discretionary health care. A third of the sample (32%) had a high score (between 3 to 6) on the index of occupational risk factors. A high score was not related to recent physician or gynaecological visits and was more common among illegal workers than those with residence status. A set of regression analyses showed that the most significant predictors of reporting a high level of occupational risk symptoms were starting sex work at an early age, the number of hours worked in a day, a history of suicide attempts and PTSD symptoms.

Conclusions: High occupational risk was found to be unrelated to recent physician or gynaecological visits, indicating that these visits were most probably controlled by the brothel owners and not by medical need as perceived by the women themselves. Furthermore, occupational risk factors were associated with some of the working and background conditions reported by women brothel workers. There is an urgent need for medical care for this high risk group.

  • prostitution
  • trafficked women
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder
  • FSU, former Soviet Union

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