Monthly Archives: September 2013

Kimberly Kay Hoang, “’She’s Not a Low-Class Dirty Girl!’: Sex Work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, August 2011, vol. 40, no. 4, 367-396.


Turning to Vietnam’s contemporary sex industry, this article complicates existing frameworks of global sex work by analyzing a sex industry in a developing economy where not all women are poor or exploited and where white men do not always command the highest paying sector of sex work. Drawing on seven months of field research between 2006 and 2007, I provide a systematic classed analysis of both sides of client—worker relationships in three racially and economically diverse sectors of Ho Chi Minh City’s (HCMC’s) global sex industry: a low-end sector that caters to poor local Vietnamese men, a mid-tier sector that caters to white backpackers, and a high-end sector that caters to overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) men. I illustrate how sex workers and clients draw on different economic, cultural, and bodily resources to enter into different sectors of HCMC’s stratified sex industry. Moreover, I argue that sex work is an intimate relationship best illustrated by the complex intermingling of money and intimacy. Interactions in the low-end sector involved a direct sex for money exchange, while sex workers and clients in the mid-tier and high-end sectors engaged in relational and intimate exchanges with each other.

Full text available here.

Scott Cunningham, Manisha Shah (2013): Decriminalizing Prostitution: Surprising Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health

Full article available here. 


Most governments in the world including the United States prohibit prostitution due to moral repugnance, though disease and victimization risks associated with sex markets are salient policy concerns. Given these types of laws rarely change and are fairly uniform across regions, our knowledge about the impact of decriminalizing sex work is largely conjectural. We exploit the fact that a Rhode Island District Court judge unexpectedly decriminalized indoor prostitution in 2003 to provide the first causal estimates of the impact of decriminalization on the composition of the sex market, rape off enses, and population sexually transmitted infection outcomes. Not surprisingly, we find that decriminalization increased the size of the indoor market. However, somewhat unexpectedly, we find that decriminalization caused both forcible rape off enses and gonorrhea incidence to decline for the overall population. Our synthetic control model finds 824 fewer reported rape off enses and 1,035 fewer cases of female gonorrhea from 2004 to 2009. The combined benefi ts of six years of decriminalization are estimated to be approximately 200 million USD. Decriminalization appears to benefi t the population at large, especially women|and not just sex workers.

Authors: Jacqueline Lewis, Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, Frances Shaver & Heather Schramm, 2005

Citation (APA): Lewis, J., Maticka-Tyndale, E., Shaver, F. & and Schramm, H. (2005). Managing Risk and Safety on the Job: The Experiences of Canadian Sex Workers. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 17(1/2), 146-167.


This paper reports results from a study of sex work occupations conducted in a large city in Canada that included women, men, and transsexual/transgender (TS/TG) sex workers. Descriptions of work provided by participants (escorts, exotic dancers, masseuses, and street workers) were used to examine how risk and safety were experienced and managed within the Canadian legal context. Three dimensions of the structure of sex work were identified as factors that influenced the management of risk and safety: its location on- or off-street, its organization on an out- or in-call basis, and whether it was conducted independently or for a club, massage parlor or escort agency. Gender and perceptions of stigma and risk interacted with these dimensions in such a way that men, women and TS/TG workers experienced and managed risk and safety differently.

Keywords: sex workers, escorts, exotic dancers, risk, safety

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Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (2007). Collateral Damage: The Impact of Anti-Trafficking Measures on Human Rights around the World.


This report reviews the impact of anti-trafficking measures on human rights in 8 countries: Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each country chapter provides an overview of human trafficking, the current legal framework concerning all aspects of anti-trafficking efforts, specific laws and policies and their implications on key groups of people, and a critical analysis of the human rights impact of these measures specifically on women. This anthology emphasises the critical need for a re-assessment of anti-trafficking initiatives around the globe in order that human rights do not get written off as ‘collateral damage’ in combating human trafficking.

Full text available here.

Villacampa, C., Torres, N., Effects of the criminalizing policy of sex work in Spain,
International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice (2013),


The aim of this study is to analyse the effects on sex workers of new regulations that ban the practice of street prostitution in Spain. This country has not traditionally maintained a clear policy regarding prostitution. However, in recent years there has been a clear turn towards the criminalization of behaviours related to voluntary prostitution. The city councils of several Spanish cities have banned the practice of street prostitution and sanctioned it with fines issued to both prostitutes and clients. Even if few studies on prostitution have been carried out in Spain, none of them had yet analysed the effects of the adoption of civic ordinances on sex workers.

In this paper we present the results of an empirical research carried out with a sample of 79 sex workers – in 20 cases with in-depth interviews – to explore the effects of the new regulation on their labour conditions.

Policy actions undertaken in Spain with regard to street prostitution are very far from leading to
the situation desired by the sex workers who made up the study sample, especially at a time when
the offensive against street sex work is intensifying. The adoption of a soft prohibitionist model
trough the approval of municipal ordinances, which prohibit the purchase and the selling of sexual
services as well as the practise of paid sex in public spaces, has shown its ineffectiveness so far.
However, bearing in mind the limited effects that this policy is having on improving the living
conditions of street sex workers, perhaps the adoption of a legalizing approach would be more
operational. This will probably not lead to the avowed goal of eradicating the practice of sex work,
but at least it would dignify the living conditions of those who work voluntarily in this field.


Fitzgerald, Sharron. Vulnerable Bodies, Vulnerable Borders: Extraterritoriality and Human Trafficking. Fem Leg Stud (2012) 20:227–244

Abstract: In this article, I interrogate how the UK government constructs and manipulates the idiom of the vulnerable female, trafficked migrant. Specifically, I analyse how the government aligns aspects of its anti-trafficking plans with plans to enhance extraterritorial immigration and border control. In order to do this, I focus on the discursive strategies that revolve around the UK’s anti-trafficking initiatives. I argue that discourses of human trafficking as prostitution, modern-day slavery and organised crime do important work. Primarily, they provide the government with a moral platform from which it can develop its regulatory capacity overseas. It is not my intention to suggest that the government’s anti-trafficking plans are superficial, and that extraterritoriality is the sole driver. On the contrary, I argue that complex interrelationships exist and while the government’s interest in protecting vulnerable women from sexual exploitation may seem to be paramount, I assert that in fact it intersects with other agendas at key points. I consider how government action to protect vulnerable women in trafficking ‘source’ and ‘transit’ countries such as development aid and repatriation schemes relate to broader legal and political concerns about protecting the UK from unwanted ‘Others’.

Full text available here.

Christine B.N. Chin (2013): Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City, Oxford University Press.

This book introduces an innovative ‘3C’ framework of city, creativity, and cosmopolitanism to analyze why and how the forces of neoliberal economic restructuring processes, and people’s responses to them, encourage women’s migration for sex work from global city to global city. Based on original fieldwork in Kuala Lumpur (KL), the study begins by examining KL’s transformation into a global city. Despite the state’s creatively repressive responses to ‘illegal foreign prostitutes’, women from within and beyond the region find ways to enter for sex work. They travel on migratory pathways created from inter-global city collaboration and competition. Women’s decisions to migrate for sex work are based on and shaped by socioeconomic strategies crafted in the larger context of intersecting forces from the personal and household to the global levels. They migrate independently, with assistance from friends or from syndicates. This book offers an unprecedented examination of one KL syndicate specializing in non-trafficked migrant women. ‘Syndicate X’ arranges migrant women’s transportation, housing, security and sex work in exchange for monthly board and lodging fees and ‘taxes’ on their incomes. Analysis of migrant women’s and syndicate personnel’s encounters with difference in the global city at once evince emerging cosmopolitan subjectivities and affirm colonial-like ascriptions and ensuing worldviews and treatments of the Other. In the three dimensions of city, creativity, and cosmopolitanism, we find the common denominator of classed, gendered, and racialised-ethnicised forces that shape, and are shaped by relationships between state policies, public discourse, migrant women and syndicate personnel.

Jabour, Anya (2013): Prostitution Politics and Feminist Activism in Modern America- Sophonisba Breckinridge and the Morals Court in Prohibition-Era Chicago, Journal of Women’s History, Volume 25, Number 3, Fall 2013, pp. 141-164.

In 1930, Sophonisba Breckinridge, a feminist social work professor at the University of Chicago, initiated a campaign to reform the branch of Chicago’s Municipal Court system that dealt with prostitutes. A product of an international anti-prostitution movement, the Morals Court was considered a model reform at the time of its inception in 1913. Yet as scholars have observed, reformers’ efforts to abolish prostitution resulted in repressive policies that sanctioned state control and police harassment of sex workers. Although most studies note feminist critiques of prostitution policies on civil libertarian grounds, few have explored this phenomenon, particularly after 1920. Breckinridge’s crusade to secure civil rights for accused prostitutes in Prohibition-era Chicago offers a new perspective on the politics of prostitution, prompts a reexamination of American feminism after the achievement of suffrage, and sheds light on current debates about the international traffic in women.


“Chicago’s Morals Court was the product of a major reform movement in early twentieth-century America in which a coalition of evangelicals, feminists, business leaders, and medical experts demanded immediate and unrelenting repression of prostitution. Nationwide, city-appointed vice commissions prompted raids on brothels and advocated new laws suppressing commercialized sex. At the federal level, the Mann Act of 1910 prohibited the international or interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes.14

The anti-prostitution movement was international in scope. Beginning in the 1870s, feminists, moralists, and civil libertarians on both sides of the Atlantic attacked the so-called “European plan” of regulated brothels and medical inspection of prostitutes. Decrying the sexual double standard, governmental sanction for commercialized sex, misguided public health policy, corruption in law enforcement, and infringements on women’s constitutional rights, self-styled “abolitionists” in Europe, Latin America, and the United States sought to abolish or prevent state-sponsored prostitution and eradicate both domestic prostitution and the international sex trade. Cooperation among denominational, national, and international groups resulted in international treaties to suppress sex trafficking in 1904 and 1910.1

Author: Kamala Kempadoo, 1998

Citation (APA): Kempadoo, K. (1998). Globalizing Sex Workers’ Rights. Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, 22(3/4), 143-150.


Kempadoo examines the trajectories of workers’ participation in sex work and in sex workers’ rights movements in different times and places. In particular, she addresses the specificity of experience as it relates to nation and region, and the effect of economic globalization (WTO, NAFTA) on the sex industries.

Read the full article here:

Empower Foundation (2012) Hit and Run: Sex Workers’ Research on Anti trafficking in Thailand (The impact of anti trafficking policy and practice on Sex Workers’ Human Rights in Thailand)


We travel for days up the mountains, across rivers, through dense forest. We follow the paths that others have taken. Small winding paths of dust or mud depending on the season.

I carry my bag of clothes and all the hopes of my family on my back. I carry this with pride; it’s a precious bundle not a burden. As for the border, for the most part, it does not exist. There is no line drawn on the forest floor. There is no line in the swirling river. I simply put my foot where thousands of other women have stepped before me. My step is excited, weary, hopeful, fearful and defiant. Behind me lies the world I know. It’s the world of my grandmothers and their grandmothers. Ahead is the world of my sisters who have gone before me, to build the dreams that keep our families alive. This step is Burma. This step is Thailand. That is the border.

If this was a story of man setting out on an adventure to find a treasure and slay a dragon to make his family rich and safe, he would be the hero. But I am not a man. I am a woman and so the story
changes. I cannot be the family provider. I cannot be setting out on an adventure. I am not brave and daring. I am not resourceful and strong. Instead I am called illegal, disease spreader, prostitute, criminal or trafficking victim.

Why is the world so afraid to have young, working class, non-English speaking, and predominately non-white women moving around? It’s not us that are frequently found to be pedophiles, serial killers or rapists. We have never started a war, directed crimes against humanity or planned and carried out genocide. It’s not us that fill the violent offender’s cells of prisons around the world. Exactly what risk does our freedom of movement pose? Why is keeping us in certain geographical areas so important that governments are willing to spend so much money and political energy? Why do we feel like sheep or cattle, only allowed by the farmer to graze where and when he chooses? Why do other women who have already crossed over into so many other worlds, fight to keep us from following them? Nothing in our experiences provides us with an answer to these questions.

Instead of respect for our basic human rights under the United Nations Human Rights Council we are given “protection” under the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. We are forced to live with
the modern lie that border controls and anti-trafficking policies are for our protection. None of us believe that lie or want that kind of protection. We have been spied on, arrested, cut off from our families, had our savings confiscated, interrogated, imprisoned and placed into the hands of the men with guns, in order for them to send us home… all in the name of “protection against trafficking”. It’s rubbing salt into the wound that this is called helping us. We are grateful for those who are genuinely concerned with our welfare … but we ask you to listen to us and think in new ways.

After “raid or rescue” we will walk the same path again, facing the same dangers at the same border crossings. Just like the women fighting to be educated, fighting to vote, fighting to participate in politics, fighting to be independent, fighting to work, to love, to live safely… we will not stay in the cage society has made for us, we will dare to keep crossing the lines.

Full text available.