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]
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.
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