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Sex Work and Humanitarianism: Understanding Predominant Framings of Sex Work in Humanitarian Response
2019 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to study how the issue of sex work occurring within humanitarian contexts is addressed by the humanitarian sector, and what this in turn can say about how the problem itself is framed. The analysis focuses on three types of approaches which were identified. These are: to address humanitarian staff and their behaviour in the field in relation to using transactional sex; understanding sex work as a ‘negative coping strategy’ and addressing underlying vulnerabilities; and using a rights-based and community empowerment approach to sex work.

By analysing codes of conducts, policies, guidelines, and literature suggesting ways for humanitarian workers and peacekeepers to deal with, position themselves against, and understand sex work in the field, I found that, besides the fact that this issue has not been given enough attention in the humanitarian sector, it has mostly been understood as a form of exploitation, and as a coping strategy either used or forced onto mostly women in contexts of crises. The recurrent themes in many of these approaches, have been the focus on gendered vulnerabilities and power structures between people working within or together with the humanitarian sector and the local population in contexts of crisis. Within these frameworks, the issue of to what extent women engaged in sex work are perceived to have agency is somewhat ambivalent, and some critics have argued that their agency has been denied and that not enough focus has been given to the actual needs and risks of those who engage in sex work. This critique has in turn inspired new guidelines and programmes to be developed.

By linking the analysis to further debates on sex work and critique of the humanitarian sector, I conclude that the simplistic and victimising portrayal of people engaging in sex work and of people living in contexts of humanitarian crises, as well as the sometimes-lacking reflection of ideologies and frameworks motivating humanitarian operations, can blind us to the more nuanced and diverse needs that people in these situations might have. It can also negatively impact the approaches that we use to address stigmatised issues such as sex work. Therefore, I stress that it remains important to study the processes through which knowledge about these issues is produced, and whose voices are included in the process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 36
Keywords [en]
Humanitarianism, Sex Work
National Category
Humanities and the Arts
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-391047OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-391047DiVA, id: diva2:1343555
Subject / course
International Humanitarian Action
Educational program
Master Programme in Humanitarian Action and Conflict
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2019-08-21 Created: 2019-08-17 Last updated: 2019-08-21Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
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More styles
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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