Governing Sex Workers in Timor Leste

Harrington, Carol. “Governing Sex Workers in Timor Leste.” Asia Pacific Viewpoint 52, no. 1 (April 1, 2011): 29–41. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8373.2011.01440.x.

Abstract

This paper argues that international security forces in Timor Leste depend upon civilian partners in HIV/AIDs ‘knowledge networks’ to monitor prostitutes’ disease status. These networks produce mobile expertise, techniques of government and forms of personhood that facilitate international government of distant populations without overt coercion. HIV/AIDs experts promote techniques of peer education, empowerment and community mobilisation to construct women who sell sex as health conscious sex workers. Such techniques make impoverished women responsible for their disease status, obscuring the political and economic contexts that produced that status. In the militarised context of Timor Leste, knowledge of the sexual conduct of sub-populations labelled high risk circulates among global HIV/AIDs knowledge networks, confirming their expert status while obscuring the sexual harm produced by military intervention. HIV/AIDs knowledge networks have recently begun to build Timorese sex worker organisations by contracting an Australian sex worker NGO to train a Timorese NGO tasked with building sex worker identity and community. Such efforts fail to address the needs and priorities of the women supposedly empowered. The paper engages theories of global knowledge networks, mobile technologies of government, and governmentality to analyse policy documents, reports, programmes, official statements, speeches, and journalistic accounts regarding prostitution in Timor Leste.

Full article available here. 

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