Lisa Maher, Thomas Crewe Dixon, Pisith Phlong, Julie Mooney-Somers, Ellen S. Stein, Kimberly Page: “Conflicting Rights: How the Prohibition of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Infringes the Right to Health of Female Sex Workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.” Health and Human Rights Journal. Accessed June 12, 2015.
While repressive laws and policies in relation to sex work have the potential to undermine HIV prevention efforts, empirical research on their interface has been lacking. In 2008, Cambodia introduced anti-trafficking legislation ostensibly designed to suppress human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Based on empirical research with female sex workers, this article examines the impact of the new law on vulnerability to HIV and other adverse health outcomes. Following the introduction of the law, sex workers reported being displaced to streets and guesthouses, impacting their ability to negotiate safe sex and increasing exposure to violence. Disruption of peer networks and associated mobility also reduced access to outreach, condoms, and health care. Our results are consistent with a growing body of research which associates the violation of sex workers’ human rights with adverse public health outcomes. Despite the successes of the last decade, Cambodia’s AIDS epidemic remains volatile and the current legal environment has the potential to undermine prevention efforts by promoting stigma and discrimination, impeding prevention uptake and coverage, and increasing infections. Legal and policy responses which seek to protect the rights of the sexually exploited should not infringe the right to health of sex workers.
Full article available here.
From the “Introduction” (freely accessible here):
“Prostitution is an area that is an emotional hotbed for anyone attempting to theorize and conceptualize “agency.” Is selling one’s body a form of empowerment? Agency? What is consent? How can consent be conceptualized without a specific and individualized understanding of sovereignty and certainly how can it be legislated by Western organized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) when it cannot even be agreed upon between states in the United States? Or is it part of an ongoing dynamic of violence and abuse? An attempt at mastery? Where is desire in this mix? Does it matter?”
Table of Contents
Hoefinger, Heidi. 2010. Negotiating Intimacy: Transactional Sex and Relationships Among Cambodian Professional Girlfriends. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London. [Thesis]
This research focuses on the transactional nature of sexual and non-sexual relationships between certain young women in Cambodia described as ‘professional girlfriends’, and their ‘western boyfriends’. In this case, the term ‘transactional’ refers to the initial material motivation behind their interactions. While the majority of women are employed as bartenders or waitresses in tourist areas of Phnom Penh, outside observers tend to erroneously label them as ‘prostitutes’ or ‘broken women’ because of the gift-based nature of the intimate exchanges. Ethnographic evidence demonstrates, however, that they make up a diverse and nuanced group of individuals who engage in relationships more complex than simply ‘sex-for-cash’ exchanges, and often seek marriage and love in addition to material comforts. Though they do not view themselves as ‘prostitutes’, the distinction of the term ‘professional’ is used to emphasize that 1) they do rely on the formation of these relationships as a means of livelihood and their motivations are initially materially-based; 2) they engage in multiple overlapping transactional relationships, usually unbeknownst to their other partners; 3) there is a performance of intimacy, whereby the professed feelings of love and dedication lie somewhere on a continuum between genuine and feigned, and where the term ‘love’ itself carries multiple meanings.
The research further reveals not only the stereotypes, contradictions, and structural constraints experienced by these young women, but also their entrepreneurialism, determination and creativity. Despite trauma related to recent political past, sexual violence, stigma, depression and self-harming, they use tools of global feminine youth culture, consumption, linguistic ability, ‘bar girl’ subculture, and interpersonal relationships to make socioeconomic advancements and find enjoyment in their lives. The practice of ‘intimate ethnography’ also illuminates the negotiation of intimacy and friendship between the participants and researcher, as well as the general materiality and exchange of everyday sex and relationships around the globe.
Interview on Huffington Post “Everything You Think You Know About Cambodian Sex Workers Is Wrong“
This article analyzes recent developments in U.S. anti-sex trafficking rhetoric and practices. In particular, it traces how pre-9/11 abolitionist legal frameworks have been redeployed in the context of regime change from the Clinton to Bush administrations. In the current political context, combating the traffic in women has become a common denominator political issue, uniting people across the political and religious spectrum against a seemingly indisputable act of oppression and exploitation. However, this essay argues that feminists should be the first to interrogate and critique the premises underlying many claims about global sex trafficking, as well as recent U.S.-based efforts to rescue prostitutes. It places the current raid-and-rehabilitation method of curbing sex trafficking within the broader context of Bush administration and conservative religious approaches to dealing with gender and sexuality on the international scene.
Read full article here.