"Our family girls": From sex work to sex trafficking in South India /

Saved in:
Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Walters, Kimberly, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (258 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
URL for this record:http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/10773289
Hidden Bibliographic Details
Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Jennifer Cole Committee members: William T.S. Mazzarella; John A. Schneider; Richard A. Shweder.
This item is not available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:This dissertation is a study of the uses that women who sell sex in Hyderabad, a city in south central India, make of shifting humanitarian endeavors to engage them. Where the debate over the ethics of women selling sex to men remains a theoretical impasse for opposing camps of feminist scholars, for Telugu-speaking women who sell sex in Hyderabad, the ethical impasse is one of daily lived experience: they grow richer doing what they feel is wrong.
HIV prevention initiatives in India have organized large groups of women in the business around a discourse of sex workers' rights grounded in labor claims on the state. These programs have attempted to 'empower' women who sell sex to redress discrimination and violence in their lives, especially state-sponsored violence. Across India, the movement for rights and recognition based on claims that the sale of sex constitutes legitimate labor has become a powerful force for collective action by women trained to identify themselves as sex workers.
More recently, global concern has mounted over identifying and combating exploitative forms of labor and migration glossed variously as 'human trafficking,' 'trafficking' and 'modern-day slavery.' Feminists who argue that the sale of sex always constitutes a form of gendered exploitation have advocated against the political ideology of sex work as work by suggesting that the term be replaced with 'sex trafficking,' 'sex slavery,' and 'commercial sex exploitation.' Where 'trafficking' has in other instances retained its semantic association with crossing borders, as it has been applied to the sex trade, 'trafficking' has come to signify the sale of sex generally, since advocates of this discourse imagine all sex work to result from coercion. Antitrafficking efforts forward rescue and rehabilitation programs as the requisite humanitarian interventions to the sale of sex.
In Hyderabad, one highly visible community-based organization, Chaitanya Mahila Mandali (CMM) that was originally structured around the politics of sex workers' rights has recently begun to distance itself from this ideology. Instead, the leaders of this large group of Telugu-speaking sex workers have begun to publicly embrace an ideology closer to that of the antitrafficking movement. Members of this organization have a decade or more of training in the language of empowerment and in the practice of protest against the stigmatization of sex work. Nevertheless, they are now being encouraged by their leaders to publicly disseminate stories of having been forced into the business. These highly emotional stories serve to raise funds for rehabilitation programs.
I show that CMM members author self-narratives that moderate the double bind of needing to continue in a business that marks them as moral outsiders. By focusing on traumatic entrances into the sex trade, they deflect scrutiny of their ongoing participation in the business. By calling for adequate humanitarian intervention on their behalf, they fashion an improbable horizon that serves to suspend the question of practical change indefinitely. CMM members use the performance of victimization both to assuage their own disquiet about profiting from the sale of sex and to indirectly plead for understanding from their families. While their organization may glean donations as a result of their performances of victimization, members themselves use these performances to assert their continued consonance with the ideologies of their communities. Narrations of victimization and the fantasy of rehabilitation serve as assertions of continued moral belonging by women who are socially excluded for their lack of sexual purity. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).