I am more than just a sex worker but you have to also know that I sell sex and it’s okay: Lived Experiences of Migrant Sex Workers in Inner-City Johannesburg, South Africa

Oliveira E. (2016) “I am more than just a sex worker but you have to also know that I sell sex and it’s okay’: Lived Experiences of Migrant Sex Workers in Inner-City Johannesburg, South Africa Urban Forum [DOI: 10.1007/s12132-016-9281-0]

Abstract:
A perceived opportunity for improved livelihoods has made Johannesburg a target destination for many internal migrants moving within the borders of South Africa, as well as for cross-border migrants from around the continent and beyond. As a result, many migrants—especially those with irregular documentation—engage in unconventional and sometimes criminalised livelihood strategies, including sex work. This paper uses empirical data from a 2010 mixed methods research study that included a participatory photography project with 11 migrant women from Zimbabwe and elsewhere in South Africa, who sold sex in the migrant-dense suburb of Hillbrow, in inner-city Johannesburg.

By focussing on the diverse lived experiences of migrant women who sell sex, this paper examines the ways in which these women survive, engage, and experience their work and the city. Feelings of excitement as a result of new experiences, opportunities for new identities and dreams to be formed, sentiments of nostalgia, concerns and experiences of violence, pride in the ability to survive and earn an income, feelings of loneliness, and negotiations of stigma surfaced throughout the study as participants explained, represented and examined their lives.

About Elsa Oliveira

Elsa Oliveira is a researcher and PhD student at the African Centre for Migration and Society.

Since 2010, Elsa has been involved in a range of research projects that makes use of participatory visual and narrative methods. These projects aim to engage in research that explores the lived experiences of multiple migrant groups, with a specific focus on issues of sexuality and migration.

Elsa was one of two ACMS staff that launched the MoVE (methods.visual.explore) project. She is interested in exploring the ways in which research outputs can be disseminated into wider public forums and in the ways in which research can support social justice movements.

As part of maHp, Elsa will assist in coordinating visual research projects and undertaking research exploring visual methodologies for investigating migration and health in southern Africa.

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