Sexuality and Social Reproduction: Reflections from an Indian Feminist Debate

Gopal, Meena (2013): Sexuality and Social Reproduction: Reflections from an Indian Feminist Debate, in: Indian Journal of Gender Studies June 2013 vol. 20 no. 2 235-251

This article tries in a preliminary manner to establish links between sexual labour, the negotiations of everyday life and the reproduction of social relations. The context for this interrogation is the recent ban in 2005 on dancing in beer bars in the Indian city of Mumbai; the attempts by the state to legitimise its action amidst a range of national and international rhetoric on sexual labour, and the voices of women who were disenfranchised due to the state ban. Women’s interrogation of their role in sexual labour and their struggle for dignity and respect in the domain of work is discussed in the light of the negative discourse weighing against them, while also bringing in historical and contemporary accounts of other forms of ‘stigmatised’ labour. The attempt is to understand how notions of dignity and respectability are intertwined with shifts in gender, caste, class locations and the struggles of social movements. Significant in this discussion are various examples of how women choose to ‘move away’ in their constant search for livelihoods and survival. The article is an attempt to illuminate how an expanded notion of social reproduction could recognise labours of different kinds with the voices of those embodying these labours having a say in how justice and entitlements should devolve.

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