Negotiations with everyday power and violence: A study of female sex workers’ experiences in Eastern India

Guha, Mirna (2017) Negotiations with everyday power and violence: A study of female sex workers’ experiences in Eastern India. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Studies on sex work in India have tended to portray female sex workers as either victims or empowered agents. Over the last two decades, binaries of free and forced regarding participation in sex work have been reinforced by development discourses and interventions on HIV/AIDS and human trafficking which target the sex work community in India. This choice/compulsion binary, in turn, has elicited another binary of violent/non-violent social relations, thereby exceptionalising the nature of violence within sex work.
This thesis argues against this exceptionalisation by locating an analysis of women’s participation in sex work, and their experiences of power and violence, within a context of everyday social relations in Eastern India. It presents qualitative data generated from eight months of fieldwork across two prominent red-light areas in Kolkata, a shelter home for rescued female sex workers in its southern suburb, Narendrapur, and villages in the South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal. Analysis shows that the research subjects’ experiences of power and violence in social relations with members of the household, community, market and state (Kabeer, 1994) and experiences of deviance (Becker, 1963) in these relationships, shape pathways into, lives within and pathways out of sex work. It highlights the cyclical nature of gender-based violence and power inequalities across the lives (Ellsberg and Heise, 2005) of women formerly and currently in sex work. Struggles with power and violence prior to entering sex work continue in different forms within sex work and persist even after women leave, often leading to a return to sex work.
These findings problematize static readings of female sex workers’ victimhood and agency. Instead, they present a contextually nuanced analysis of their dynamic experiences and negotiations, rooted within an understanding of wider regional,social and cultural norms on women’s sexuality, mobility and labour force participation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Global Development (formerly School of International Development)
Depositing User: Zoe White
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2018 10:38
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2018 10:38


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