In This Review
Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition

Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition

Edited by Kamala Kempadoo and Jo Doezema

Routledge, 1998, 304 pp.

A provocative collection of essays on prostitution, by scholars, journalists, and sex workers, with a focus on developing countries along with two essays on Japan. The authors generally reject the notion that all sex workers are coerced into the profession. Rather, they argue, many choose prostitution as the least unattractive and most certain route to economic well-being; and they conclude that it should not be stigmatized any more than should other occupations involving manual labor. The alternative -- criminalization and social exclusion -- denies workers legal rights and opens the possibility of abuse. While the authors strongly condemn forced labor, they contend that law enforcement should address the question of coercion, not sexual activity itself.

The authors generally praise the growing activism on behalf of sex workers, spurred in part by the aids epidemic, and some suggest that aids is not especially prevalent among prostitutes. The book is primarily aimed at feminists, emphasizing that women should have the right to work in all domains, as well as at male policymakers, who (the authors charge) criminalize prostitution to subordinate female workers.