This paper argues that potential cases of oppression, such as sex trafficking, can sometimes comprise autonomous choices by the trafficked individuals. This issue still divides radical from liberal feminists, with the former wanting to ‘rescue’ the ‘victims’ and the latter insisting that there might be good reasons for ‘hiding from the rescuers.’ This article presents new arguments for the liberal approach and raises two demands: first, help organizations should be run by affected women and be open-minded about whether or not the trafficked individuals should remain in the sex industry. Second, the career choices of trafficked individuals should be expanded by the introduction of an opportunity-extending right to asylum.
The prevalence and factors associated with being paid and paying for sex were explored in an online sample of Australian gay men. Sexual risk behavior among male sex workers and their clients was mainly related to being more sexually adventurous in general rather than male-to-male sex work specifically.
Based upon 50 interviews that took place over the course of 3 years of ethnographic research with 100 female street-based sex workers in Denver, Colorado, the tenth largest city in the United States, this article explores the cultural ethos informing women’s interactions with police and the tools women use to navigate their struggles with homelessness, addiction, and the everyday violence of the street. It identifies three beliefs about patrol officers that reflect the complexities of women’s interactions with police: arrest is indiscriminate in a “known prostitution area,” arrest avoidance strategies necessitate interpreting behavioral cues while showing respect to officers and forming affective bonds with potential clients, and officers may abuse their authority. This belief system is part of an environment in which women’s stigmatized behaviors are highly visible and constitute an increased risk of negative police encounters. Changes to policing practices remain unlikely while women’s sex work and drug use activities remain criminalized. Findings presented support arguments for decriminalizing prostitution as well as the implementation of harm reduction-oriented social policy, including services that inform women about their rights in the criminal justice system while facilitating awareness of how their individual lives intersect with gender, class, and racial bias in a sociolegal system that stigmatizes and criminalizes their choices.
Sex Workers, Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation in Ethiopia
IDS Evidence Report 80
Link to the publication
This case study explores economic, legal and social issues that affect sex workers, with a particular focus on the role of poverty in sex workers’ lives and the potential for poverty alleviation policies and programmes to help lift as many sex workers as possible out of poverty in order to reduce the exploitation, illness and violence associated with their work.
In surveys, sex workers overwhelmingly indicate they would like another occupation, particularly in very poor countries. This has been taken to mean that relieving the poverty of individual sex workers will lead them to stop or reduce sex work. On this analysis, reduced poverty will mean that the number of women entering the sex industry, or staying in it, will be reduced and/or that the harm associated with sex work would be diminished because the numbers of partners or of unprotected sexual contacts would reduce. However, the validity of this logic and the benefits, costs and consequences (intended and unintended) of poverty alleviation in the context of sex work have not been tested or even well documented.
This article examines the links between in/visibility, agency and mobility through the narratives of 55 predominantly indoor sex workers interviewed in Melbourne, Australia, where state government regulations permit some forms of sex work under a licensing framework. This article explores the tensions around the requirement for visibility in the regulation of sex work, the utility of ‘strategic’ invisibility in the lived realities of sex work and the discursive ‘invisibilizing’ of sex workers’ agency in anti-prostitution discourses. For the workers we interviewed, ‘strategic invisibility’ was an agentic strategy that prevented stigma and protected social, economic and geographical mobility within and outside the sex industry. In Melbourne, workers’ careful management of their ‘invisibility’ as sex workers contrasted with the state’s harm minimization framework that insists on sex workers’ visibility within healthcare and licensing systems. This article draws on empirical data to suggest that regulation through licensing can both alleviate and contribute to vulnerabilizing contexts of sex work, providing useful lessons to those considering a similar system of regulation.