Tag Archives: South Africa

Huysamen, Monique. 2019. ‘“There’s Massive Pressure to Please Her”: On the Discursive Production of Men’s Desire to Pay for Sex’. The Journal of Sex Research, August, 1–11.

This article presents a discursive analysis of 43 men’s narratives about paying for sex, collected using a combination of online and traditional face-to-face interview methods. It argues that the societal pressures placed on men to “perform” sexually help to produce conditions that make paying for sex desirable. Paying for sex provided men with a “safe” space where they felt exempt from expectations to display sexual experience, skill, and stamina. Moreover, men valued paid sexual encounters with experienced sex workers as spaces where they could acquire sexual experience and skills to better approximate idealised versions of heteronormative male sexuality. The article explores the emotional aspects tied up in men’s desires to pay for sex and attends to the question of power within the paid sexual encounter, shedding light on the complexities, nuances and multiplicities within client-sex worker relationships. In conclusion, this paper discusses the value of addressing the broader social structures, sites such as media, online spaces, and medical industries, where heteronormative discourses on male sexual “performance” continue to be reproduced and maintained.

Over the past two decades there has been a growing body of academic and community-based literature on sex workers’ lives and work. However, the discourses, laws, and policies that impact sex workers are continually changing, and critical perspectives are constantly needed. Therefore, this Special Issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review highlights some of the current achievements of – and challenges faced by – the global sex worker rights movement.

Contributors examine the ways in which organising and collectivisation have enabled sex workers to speak up for themselves and tell their own stories, claim their human, social, and labour rights, resist stigma and punitive laws and policies, and provide mutual and peer-based support. The contexts in focus include Canada, Latin America and Caribbean, United States, France, South Africa, India, Thailand and the Philippines.

Published: 2019-04-29

Vaughn, Michael Patrick. „Client Power and the Sex Work Transaction: The Influence of Race, Class, and Sex Work Role in the Post-Apartheid Sex Work Industry“. Sexuality & Culture, 2019.
Systems of power influence client–sex worker interactions, in part, by shifting how actors perceive the interaction. In the present study, I argue that clients of sex workers determine appropriate behavior during the sex work transaction based on how they perceive the sex worker from whom they are purchasing services. Systems of power, such as race, socioeconomic status, and the local sex work status hierarchy, influence this perception. I present an analysis of national survey data on South African clients’ self-reported condom use and interview data on South African clients’ experiences while purchasing sex. Taking both data sets together, I find that clients characterize sex workers based on the sex workers’ perceived race, class, and the venue in which they work. Clients discussed perceiving the sex worker as a commodified object, one which ought to be used differently depending on their positionality. This perception manifest behaviorally when discussing sexual health risk and the appropriateness of violence against sex workers. Through this analysis, I demonstrate the utility of conceptualizing power along multiple levels of analysis (interpersonally and structurally) when studying decision-making in the sex work industry.

Yingwana, Ntokozo. „“We Fit in the Society by Force”. Sex Work and Feminism in Africa“. Meridians 17, 2 (2018): 279–95.

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.

Walker, Rebecca, und Treasa Galvin. 2018. „Labels, victims, and insecurity: an exploration of the lived realities of migrant women who sell sex in South Africa“. Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal 3 (2): 277–92.

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.

In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government engaged in a militarized campaign to clean up favelas, blighted areas, and red-light districts so that it could “develop” them. Based on ethnographic work in Rio de Janeiro, London, and Cape Town, this article argues that there is a pattern in host cities of such events in which neoliberal agents, state forces, and nongovernmental organizations use discourses of feminism and human rights—especially unfounded fears about a link between sex trafficking and sports—to enact such changes regardless of the political economic conditions or systems of governance. By destroying safe and legal venues for sex work, these actors have created the very exploitation they purport to prevent. The article also links these actions to US foreign policy mandates and a broader shift in governmentality in Brazil predicated on performing a commitment to sexual diversity, including promoting gay rights and tourism, and advancing liberal notions of sexual progress that, in actuality, marginalize more vulnerable sexual populations.

Special Issue of the Graduate Journal of Social Science Volume 11, Issue 2 “Blurred Lines: The Contested Nature of Sex Work in a Changing Social Landscape”


Editorial – Blurred Lines: The Contested Nature of Sex Work in a Changing Social Landscape, Laura Connelly, Laura Jarvis-King and Gemma Ahearne

Saving us from penetration – ponderings from a trans rentboy, Jet Young

Between the Sex Industry and Academia: Navigating Stigma and Disgust, Gemma Ahearne

Yeah, they’ve started to get a bit fucking cocky …’ Culture, Economic Change and Shifting Power Relations within the Scottish Lap-Dancing Industry, Billie Lister

Victor or victim? Foregrounding the independent escort experience outside of the polarised debate, Rae Story and Glen Jankowski

Direct sex work in Great Britain: reflecting diversity, Jane Pitcher

The changing landscape of Scottish responses to sex work: addressing violence against sex workers, Emma Smith

Contested spaces: Exploring the intersections of migration, sex work and trafficking in South Africa, Rebecca Walker and Elsa Oliveira

The ‘Rescue Industry’: The blurred line between help and hindrance, Laura Connelly

Photo Essay Tony Stone


All texts fully available for free here. 


The concept of ‘human dignity’ sits at the heart of international human rights law and a growing number of national constitutions and yet its meaning is heavily contested and contingent. I aim to supplement the theoretical literature on dignity by providing an empirical study of how the concept is used in the specific context of legal discourse on sex work. I will analyse jurisprudence in which commercial sex was declared as incompatible with human dignity, focussing on the South African Constitutional Court case of S v Jordan and the Indian Supreme Court case of Budhadev Karmaskar v State of West Bengal. I will consider how these courts conceptualise dignity and argue that their conclusions on the undignified nature of sex work are predicated on particular sexual norms that privilege emotional and relational intimacy. In light of the stigma faced by sex workers I will explore how a discourse, proclaiming sex work as beneath human dignity, may impact on the way that sex workers are perceived and represented culturally, arguing that it reinforces stigma. I will go on to examine how sex workers subvert the notion that commercial sex is undignified, and resist stigma, by campaigning for the right to sell sex with dignity. I will demonstrate that an alternative legal approach to dignity and sex work is possible, where the two are not considered as inherently incompatible, concluding with thoughts on the risks and benefits of using ‘dignity talk’ in activism and campaigns for sex work law reform.



This article explores the movement to decriminalize sex work in the Gauteng province of Johannesburg from 1994 to 2002. In particular, I examine the actions and statements of the provincial Ministry of Safety and Security and other ministries in the decision to de facto decriminalize prostitution using the international language of human rights. This article illustrates that the movement to decriminalize sex work in the postapartheid period is not a sharp departure from the past. Rather, as early as the 1970s there were minority contingents that advocated a legalization or decriminalization of sex work, arguing for the public health or policy benefits that would follow. What is new in the postapartheid period is the justification for decriminalization, which now is based on the international language of human rights. Also new in the postapartheid period is the inclusion in the debate of voices that were not heard during apartheid, when the media was dominated by white South Africans. There is now a counterdiscourse opposing decriminalization, based on religion and on the argument that sex work is “un-African.”


The research for this article was conducted in the greater Johannesburg area of South Africa in 1996 ( july-September) and from September 1997 to September 1999. Gauteng was chosen as a site for research because of an effort to decriminalize sex work led by the department of Safety and security (Gauteng province) in the Johannesburg area. Some of the questions posed by this article include the following: To what extent was the movement or effort to decriminalize prostitution in the 1990s a shift and departure from the control of sexuality during the apartheid period? What factors account for the movement to decriminalize sex work? How does South Africa’s racial diversity figure in the movement, and how did it affect previous discourse on this topic?1

To understand the origins and (at least so far) the limited success of the decriminalization movement, one has to examine the nature of sex work in apartheid South Africa and the changes that have taken place in the postapartheid era. Before the ending of apartheid, most advocates for legalization or decriminalization of prostitution had focused on the public health benefits of an increased tolerance and leniency. A history of tolerance toward prostitution in the Cape Colony and the ZAR (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek) also provided an historical precedent for the postapartheid movement. Significantly, most of the voices of liberalization in the apartheid era were white; black South Africans had neither the power, nor sufficient access to public media and airwaves, to make their positions known. …

Full article available here

Résumé: Cet article examine le mouvement de dépénalisation de l’industrie du sexe dans la province de Gauteng, Johannesburg, de 1994 à 2002. Nous examinons en particulier les actes et les déclarations du ministère de la sûreté et de la sécurité et d’autres ministères de cette province à la lumière de la décision de dépénaliser de facto la prostitution en invoquant le langage international des droits de l’homme. Cet article montre que ce mouvement de dépénalisation de l’industrie du sexe pendant la période postapartheid ne constitue pas un tournant radical par rapport au passé. Au contraire, dè;s les années 1970, il existait des contingents minoritaires qui militaient pour une légalisation ou une dépénalisation de l’industrie du sexe, invoquant les avantages en matière de santé publique et de politique qui ne manqueraient pas de s’ensuivre. Ce qui est nouveau dans la période postapartheid est la justification citée pour la dépénalisation, qui se base désormais sur le langage international des droits de l’homme. Une autre nouveauté de la période postapartheid est l’inclusion dans ce débat de voix qui n’avaient pas pu être entendues pendant l’apartheid, les média étant alors dominés par les africains du sud blancs. Il existe aujourd’hui un contre-discours s’opposant à la dépénalisation. Ce discours s’appuie sur la religion ainsi que sur l’argument que le travail de l’industrie du sexe est “contraire à l’esprit africain.”

Chi Mgbako and Laura A. Smith, Sex Work and Human Rights in Africa, 33 Fordham Int’l L.J. 1178 (2011). 
Available at:


This Article serves as the first law review essay to engage the feminist debates regarding sex work and human rights in the African context. This Article surveys “antiprostitution” and “pro-sex-worker” feminist arguments and activities in the sub-Saharan Africa; explores the debate surrounding the legal frameworks of legalization, decriminalization, prohibition, and abolition of prostitution in a number of African countries including Senegal, where prostitution is legal and regulated, and South Africa where prostitution remains illegal despite civil society advocacy for decriminalization; and calls for the empowerment of African sex workers by arguing for a human rights-based transformation in African governments’ legal and policy posture towards sex work. Part I of this Article explores both the feminist arguments against prostitution and in favor of sex workers’ rights. Part II traces the development of the distinction between forced and unforced prostitution in international law and argues that the international human rights system creates a foundation for the realization of sex workers’ rights in Africa. Part III explores the debates regarding the criminalization of prostitution in a number of African countries and includes case studies from Senegal and South Africa.