This paper highlights important environmental dimensions of HIV vulnerability by describing how the sex trade operates in Nairobi, Kenya. Although sex workers there encounter various forms of violence and harassment, as do sex workers globally, we highlight how they do not merely fall victim to a set of environmental risks but also act upon their social environment, thereby remaking it, as they strive to protect their health and financial interests. In so doing, we illustrate the mutual constitution of ‘agency’ and ‘structure’ in social network formations that take shape in everyday lived spaces. Our findings point to the need to expand the focus of interventions to consider local ecologies of security in order to place the local knowledges, tactics, and capacities that communities might already possess on centre stage in interventions. Planning, implementing, and monitoring interventions with a consideration of these ecologies would tie interventions not only to the risk reduction goals of global public health policy, but also to the very real and grounded financial priorities of what it means to try to safely earn a living through sex work.
This article examines the effects of rumors within the Mexican and U.S. governments’ militarized war on drugs. Focusing on a period during which Mexican drug organizations were strengthened and violence increased, the article follows the lives of Mexican sex workers and their clients, as well as American missionaries living in a prostitution zone in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Borders between narco-controlled and state-controlled territory were shifted in and through the bodies of Reynosa’s residents as a contagion of performative rumors came to occupy la zona. As residents told or listened to stories about torture and murder at the hands of narcos, their perceived vulnerability increased and fear came to predominate. In this article I theorize how rumors of violence shaped affective atmospheres of terror and altered spatial practices in a drug-war zone. Feelings of bodily risk first affected vulnerable populations and later spread to people who had previously felt secure in border zones. These narco-stories not only circulated terror but also allowed people to achieve intimacy and maintain social bonds through the shared experience of terror.
Sex workers have reported a history of stigma associated with their identity and labor, which has resulted in numerous barriers to justice, social services, and healthcare. The current study aimed to experimentally investigate the effects of sex work stigma on observers’ victim blame and empathy toward sexual assault survivors. The participants included 197 undergraduate students from the Midwestern US who were randomly assigned to read a newspaper article reporting a sexual assault in which the victim’s identity was manipulated as a sex worker or a non-sex worker between the conditions. Results indicated participants assigned to the article describing the rape of a sex worker responded to the article with statistically less victim empathy and more victim blame than participants who read an article describing the rape of a non-sex worker. Integrating stigma theory and qualitative research on sex work stigma, the implications of the results demonstrate a significant barrier sex workers may face within the criminal justice system when reporting acts of violence against them. Recommendations for sex work decriminalization, changing the conversation of academic discourse on sex work, and educational initiatives are proposed to reduce the stigma of this marginalized population.
Lyons, Tara, Andrea Krüsi, Leslie Pierre, Will Small, and Kate Shannon. “The Impact of Construction and Gentrification on an Outdoor Trans Sex Work Environment: Violence, Displacement and Policing.” Sexualities, January 10, 2017, 1363460716676990. doi:10.1177/1363460716676990.
The objective of this study was to investigate how environmental and structural changes to a trans outdoor work environment impacted sex workers in Vancouver, Canada. The issue of changes to the work area arose during qualitative interviews with 33 trans sex workers. In response, ethnographic walks that incorporated photography were undertaken with trans sex workers. Changes to the work environment were found to increase vulnerabilities to client violence, displace trans sex workers, and affect policing practices. Within a criminalized context, construction and gentrification enhanced vulnerabilities to violence and harassment from police and residents.
This report summarizes the findings of a human rights documentation project conducted by the Sex Workers Project in 2007 and 2008 to explore the impacts and effectiveness of current anti-trafficking approaches in the US from a variety of perspectives. It is among the first efforts since the passage of the TVPA to give voice to the perspectives of trafficked persons and sex workers who have experienced anti-trafficking raids. A total of 46 people were interviewed for this report, including immigrant sex workers and trafficked persons who have experienced raids or otherwise had contact with law enforcement, along with service providers, attorneys, and law enforcement personnel.
The data collected from this small to medium-sized sample is extremely rich, and suggests that vice raids conducted by local law enforcement agencies are an ineffective means of locating and identifying trafficked persons. Our research also reveals that vice raids and federal anti-trafficking raids are all too frequently accompanied by violations of the human rights of trafficked persons and sex workers alike, and can therefore be counterproductive to the underlying goals of anti-trafficking initiatives. Our findings suggest that a rights-based and “victim-centered” approach to trafficking in persons requires the development and promotion of alternate methods of identifying and protecting the rights of trafficked persons which prioritize the needs, agency, and self-determination of trafficking survivors. They also indicate that preventative approaches, which address the circumstances that facilitate trafficking in persons, should be pursued over law enforcement based responses.