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Title: Agency and sisterhood : a feminist analysis of Ethiopian sex workers' experiences of, and resistance to, violence
Author: Ayele, Sehin Teferra
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 0361
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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Sex workers in Ethiopia are both stigmatized by mainstream society and sometimes patronized as victims. Whereas western feminism has engaged with sex work on theoretical grounds, the more specific topic of violence against sex workers has been neglected by academia and usually taken for granted. It was in this context that I undertook a feminist research into violence against sex workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between October 2011 and July 2012. I adopted a post-colonial stance in my research and building on my previous experience in working with sex workers in Addis Ababa, designed a qualitative inquiry that aimed to be as participatory as possible. With the support of a sex workers' association, I conducted five focus group discussions among the same group of 20 sex workers; interviewed 87 sex workers as well as 22 male partners of sex workers, and conducted a survey to assess male attitudes towards sex work among university students. My findings show that sex workers in Addis Ababa, rather than being victims, exhibit agency in choosing sex work over the other low-paying jobs available to unskilled young women and in negotiating their way within the sector; minimizing the dangers they face and maximising their monetary gains. Sex workers also adopt a pragmatic version of sisterhood, supporting each other in times of need amidst competition. My research indicates that sex workers' commodified sexuality and 'their' men's aggressive masculinity lie on continuums with the constructed femininity and masculinity of mainstream Ethiopian society. Lastly, I argue that the violence experienced by sex workers is only an extreme manifestation of the violence largely experienced by Ethiopian women at large which speaks to the highly patriarchal nature of the gender regime in Ethiopia.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral