What does it mean to be an African sex worker feminist? In answering this question this essay draws from two qualitative studies with two African sex worker groups in 2014 and 2015—the South African movement of sex workers called Sisonke, and the African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA). Although participants were initially reluctant to give a precise definition, many pointed to elements that could constitute such an identity. Based on their embodied lived experiences, each participant illustrated and described what it meant for them to be an African, a sex worker, and a feminist, and then collectively discussed these in relation to each other and the social dimensions they occupy. Even though these three identities may seem incongruent, in certain embodiments they actually inform each other. The aim of this work is for all feminists to recognize each other as comrades in the struggle for gender and sexual liberation, thus strengthening solidarity across social justice movements.
Based on research work among cross-border migrant women who sell sex in South Africa, this paper examines the ways in which the label ‘victim’ of human trafficking ignores the complex realities of human mobility. We argue here that as state legislative and policy measures, in relation to human trafficking, justify the securitisation of borders and the curtailment of migrant rights, an accompanying hegemonic discourse serves to deny the agency of migrant women sex workers. As a result, the linkages between human trafficking and migration are experienced by migrant women sex workers through new layers of vulnerability and insecurity.
Megan Lowthers, “On Institutionalized Sexual Economies: Employment Sex, Transactional Sex, and Sex Work in Kenya’s Cut Flower Industry,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 43, no. 2 (Winter 2018): 449-472.
Today Kenya boasts the longest standing, largest, and most lucrative cut flower industry across Africa, concentrated around Lake Naivasha. Naivasha’s flower farms depend on a female migrant labor market that operates within a system of intense gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual-economic exchange. Female labor migrants sometimes participate in types of sexual commerce that are so entrenched within the cut flower industry that they can be termed an “institutionalized sexual economy.” Drawing on feminist ethnography and migration stories, this article documents the gendered and unequal labor continuum of sexual commerce that exists at Naivasha’s flower farms. This includes how female labor migrants exchange sex for employment at the flower farms—what I call “employment sex”—and how they engage in transactional sex with flower farm managers, supplement their incomes with part-time sex work, and move in and out of full-time, street-level sex work as their temporary flower farm contracts turn over. Examining this labor continuum of sexual commerce provides insight into the broader context of local employment options and conditions, work practices and policies, migration patterns, gender relations and unpaid labor, and the sex workers’ rights movement. This article is the first to use critical feminist theories to examine sexual commerce at flower farms and to place the sex-work-as-work debate squarely in the context of the cut flower industry. The absence of this subject from scholarship to date has contributed to a lack of sex worker perspectives, experiences, and sociocultural understandings of institutionalized sexual economies in Africa.
Yam, E. A., Kidanu, A., Burnett-Zieman, B., Pilgrim, N., Okal, J., Bekele, A., Gudeta, D. and Caswell, G. (2017), Pregnancy Experiences of Female Sex Workers in Adama City, Ethiopia: Complexity of Partner Relationships and Pregnancy Intentions. Studies in Family Planning, 48: 107–119. doi:10.1111/sifp.12019
Research and programs for female sex workers (FSWs) tend to focus exclusively on HIV prevention, with little attention paid to how pregnancy affects their lives. We examine the circumstances surrounding pregnancy and childbirth among women selling sex in Ethiopia. In Adama City, researchers asked 30 FSWs aged 18 and older who had ever been pregnant to participate in in-depth interviews. The women reported on pregnancies experienced both before and after they had begun selling sex. They identified some of the fathers as clients, former partners, and current partners, but they did not know the identities of the other fathers. Missed injections, skipped pills, and inconsistent condom use were causes of unintended pregnancy. Abortion was common, typically with a medication regimen at a facility. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services should be provided to women who sell sex, in recognition and support of their need for family planning and their desire to plan whether and when to have children.
This report deals with the issue of repatriation of Nigerian women in prostitution in Norway, and aims at creating knowledge about what influences whether they want to go back to Nigeria or not. Some of the women have migrated and entered prostitution in a way that constitute trafficking, and all the women has suffered from some form of exploitation in their way from Nigeria to Norway. Norwegian authorities have certain obligations towards women that are identified victims of trafficking, and repatriation to the home country has to take place in a safe and dignified way. The report Facing return: Perception of repatriation among Nigerian women in prostitution in Norway is based on a qualitative study among Nigerian women in prostitution in Norway, and it describes and explores Nigerian women’s views on the future and the possibility of returning to Nigeria.
As there are substantial individual variations in regard to the women’s experiences and attitudes, the needs of the Nigerian women in prostitution in Norway in a return process will vary accordingly. The report states that it is important that repatriation and rehabilitation efforts are sensitive towards these variations in needs in order to hinder stigmatisation or prosecution, and, not the least to increase the women’s chances to make a better life for themselves upon return.
The recent anti-trafficking fervour as well as the moral panic surrounding prostitution has given rise to large gaps within migrant sex work research, especially in Africa. Despite this, sexual commerce remains a viable economic activity for many women in East Africa, a region where variable migration patterns are central to everyday social, cultural, and economic life. Framed by anthropology, feminist geography, and postcolonial theory, this research examines migrant female sex workers’ everyday experiences across time, space, place, and scale from one ethnographic location in Naivasha, Kenya. In order to explore how different migration patterns and types of sexual-economic exchange are entangled, qualitative research was conducted among 110 migrant female sex workers and 15 community representatives. Emphasizing the public relevance of both sexual commerce and everyday migration, African literary tools also frame the migration stories of female sex workers originating from, arriving to, or transiting through Naivasha. This research reveals how street level sex work is reproduced amidst the current global political economy at migrant spaces including an IDP camp, flower farms, along East African highways, and through mobile phone technology. This research also contributes to a better understanding of the often excluded female sex worker – the displaced, migrant, or sex worker in transit – as a complete, engendered person by recognizing her complex lived realities, relationships, and risks. And while migration is predominantly associated with increased vulnerabilities, this research further demonstrates how different types of sexual-economic exchange through different migration patterns variously entangle victimhood and empowerment in complex ways. These findings are especially significant for interdisciplinary academic studies as well as policy and programming addressing sex worker migration in Africa.
Public URL: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/3423