Mapping sex workers’ struggles for labour rights & respect

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationAcademic


In a context of global restructuring, sex workers face both similar and particular challenges compared to other precarious workers around the world. This leads Sanders and Hardy (2013) to label sex work as “the ultimate precarious labour”. The stigma and illegality of sex work that prevails in many contexts, and the moral debates about the very legitimacy of acknowledging sex work as work, presents sex workers with additional challenges in their struggle for labor rights’ guarantees. Even though sex workers’ labor conditions and the effective guarantee of their labor rights intersect in crucial ways with questions around (changes in) the social organization of labor, and social constructions of gender and sexuality, sex workers often find themselves excluded from labor, feminist and sexual rights movements, and relevant advocacy and (policy) debates. Despite – or maybe because of - this adverse situation, sex workers around the world have organised in diverse and innovative ways. For instance, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) represents more than 237 sex workers’ organisations in over 70 countries across the globe. Building on previous work (Heumann et al., forthcoming), in this paper, we map sex workers’ organizing, activism and advocacy in the past decade. We pay special attention to the role of neoliberal governance of (labor) markets and financial crises for sex workers’ labor precarity and their collective responses. We approach this mapping as a meta-analysis of published academic and grey literature from labor, as well as gender and sexuality studies, including material produced by sex workers organizations themselves.
Period14 Sep 2016
Event titleAnnual Conference of the Development Studies Association (DSA)
Event typeOther
LocationOxfordShow on map