Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor: Sex Work and the Law in India

Princeton University Press
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Popular representations of third-world sex workers as sex slaves and vectors of HIV have spawned abolitionist legal reforms that are harmful and ineffective, and public health initiatives that provide only marginal protection of sex workers' rights. In this book, Prabha Kotiswaran asks how we might understand sex workers' demands that they be treated as workers. She contemplates questions of redistribution through law within the sex industry by examining the political economies and legal ethnographies of two archetypical urban sex markets in India.

Kotiswaran conducted in-depth fieldwork among sex workers in Sonagachi, Kolkata's largest red-light area, and Tirupati, a temple town in southern India. Providing new insights into the lives of these women--many of whom are demanding the respect and legal protection that other workers get--Kotiswaran builds a persuasive theoretical case for recognizing these women's sexual labor. Moving beyond standard feminist discourse on prostitution, she draws on a critical genealogy of materialist feminism for its sophisticated vocabulary of female reproductive and sexual labor, and uses a legal realist approach to show why criminalization cannot succeed amid the informal social networks and economic structures of sex markets. Based on this, Kotiswaran assesses the law's redistributive potential by analyzing the possible economic consequences of partial decriminalization, complete decriminalization, and legalization. She concludes with a theory of sex work from a postcolonial materialist feminist perspective.

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About the author

Prabha Kotiswaran is lecturer in law at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 5, 2011
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Law / Criminal Law / General
Law / Gender & the Law
Law / Jurisprudence
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / Gender Studies
Social Science / Prostitution & Sex Trade
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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New York Times Bestseller
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“Part murder case, part corruption exposé, and part Louisiana noir” (New York magazine), Murder in the Bayou chronicles the twists and turns of a high-stakes investigation into the murders of eight women in a troubled Louisiana parish.

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As the cases went unsolved, the community began to look inward. Rumors of police corruption and evidence tampering, of collusion between street and shield, cast the serial killer theory into doubt. But what was really going on in the humid rooms of the Boudreaux Inn? Why were crimes going unsolved and police officers being indicted? What had the eight women known? And could anything be done do stop the bloodshed?

Mixing muckraking research and immersive journalism over the course of a five-year investigation, Ethan Brown reviewed thousands of pages of previously unseen homicide files to posit what happened during each victim’s final hours. “Brown is a man on a mission...he gives the victims more respectful attention than they probably got in real life” (The New York Times). Murder in the Bayou is the story of an American town buckling under the dark forces of poverty, race, and class division—and a lightning rod for justice for the daughters it lost. “A must-read for true-crime fans” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the Somaly Mam Foundation.

A riveting, raw, and beautiful memoir of tragedy and hope

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking—rape, torture, deprivation—until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker. Emboldened by her newfound freedom, education, and security, Somaly blossomed but remained haunted by the girls in the brothels she left behind.
Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that steal the lives of these girls. She has orchestrated raids on brothels and rescued sex workers, some as young as five and six; she has built shelters, started schools, and founded an organization that has so far saved more than four thousand women and children in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Her memoir will leave you awestruck by her tenacity and courage and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.

To learn more about how you can help fight human trafficking, visit the foundation’s website: www.somaly.org.
Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

“A powerhouse drama. . . . Lynn Nottage’s beautiful, hideous and unpretentiously important play [is] a shattering, intimate journey into faraway news reports.”—Linda Winer, Newsday

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Lynn Nottage’s plays include Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Fabulation, and Intimate Apparel, winner of the American Theatre Critics’ Steinberg New Play Award and the Francesca Primus Prize. Her plays have been widely produced, with Intimate Apparel receiving more productions than any other play in America during the 2005-2006 season.

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