Migration and sex work in South Africa: key concerns for gender and health

Richter, M. and Vearey, J.  (2016) Migration and sex work in South Africa:  key concerns for gender and health.  In: Gideon, J. (ed) Gender and Health Handbook. Edward Elgar Publishing: UK

This chapter explores the complex intersection of gender and health through the experiences of migrant sex workers in South Africa, a country associated with high levels of population mobility _ both within the country and across borders _ and where sex work is illegal. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data exploring the lived experiences of male, female and transgendered sex workers in South Africa, and a review of existing legislative frameworks, the chapter unpacks how migration and sex work are critical concerns for gender and health scholars and practitioners. It outlines the range of structural and gendered vulnerabilities experienced by migrant sex workers that are associated with increasingly restrictive immigration legislation, the criminalization of sex work, a strong anti-trafficking agenda, conservative international donor restrictions, and negative public opinion. These vulnerabilities are further exacerbated through direct violence from the police, clients and the general public. The chapter concludes by highlighting the need for structural interventions in health policy and programming by exploring the challenges that exist for health and gender scholars and activists concerned with studying and addressing the health and well-being of migrant sex workers in South Africa and beyond.

About Jo Vearey

Jo Vearey is a Professor and the Director of the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand. She holds an Honorary Fellowship with the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, and a Senior Fellowship at the Centre for Peace, Development and Democracy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. In 2015, Jo was awarded a Humanities and Social Science Wellcome Trust Investigator Award. Jo holds a MSc in the Control of Infectious Diseases (LSHTM, 2003), a PhD in Public Health (Wits, 2010), and has been rated by the National Research Foundation as a Young Researcher. In 2014 and 2015, Jo received a Friedel Sellschop Award from the University of the Witwatersrand for outstanding young researchers. She was a Marie Curie Research Fellow in 2013, at the UNESCO Chair on Social and Spatial Inclusion of Migrants, University of Venice (SSIM-IUAV), Venice, Italy.

With a commitment to social justice and the development of pro-poor policy responses, Jo’s research explores international, regional, national and local responses to migration, health, and urban vulnerabilities. Her research interests focus on urban health, public health, migration and health, the social determinants of health, HIV, informal settlements and sex work. Jo is particularly interested in knowledge production, dissemination and utilisation including the use of visual and arts-based methodologies.

Jo has a range of international collaborations, including an ESRC-NRF funded project with the University of Edinburgh, a WOTRO funded project with the VU University, Amsterdam on migration and sex work, and partnerships with the University of Massachusetts Boston and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine‘s Faculty of Public Health and Policy and Gender, Violence and Health Unit.

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