Feminism, Sexuality, Gender, Labour: Invisible Stigma of Sex Work and Menstrual Labour in India
This article attempts a feminist analysis of understanding sex workers' limitation to command holistic living practices at all points in their life, based on degenerative quality of sexual labour and degree of violence involved. Combined with the practical limitation of bodies' usage and experiential ways of negotiating routine sexual tasks, the intersecting issue of menstruation in sex workers' lives stands as one of the fundamentally neglected aspects of women's health care service in red light areas. Based on assumptions of the degenerative notion of labour, the stigma associated with sex work and menstrual-related pollution it will explore how gendered, informal labour economies survive in marginal and dominant social spaces. Based on an ethnographic study in the red-light areas of Sonagachhi in Kolkata, the paper will conceptually highlight how sex work and menstruation involve intersectional dimensions of invisible labour processes that remain categorically as unpaid or low-paid labour wages. In both cases, in the absence of labour rights, labour which is categorized as informal work and seen as reproductive rather than productive generates exploitative labour regimes and indiscriminate precariousness. Although the recent debate on sex work has centered sexual labour as work, India's current labour laws and policies lack the labour standpoint for sex work and menstrual work produced within the informal household economy. In this context, the paper examines some of the problems that create intersecting inequalities based on de-recognition of these workers' rights. Menstruation involves reproductive sexual labour, while sex-work is often violent and transgressive, causing bodily harm and injury. Menstrual and sex work-related care is often ignored, and the two discourses represent secrecy, silence, and shame, concepts that link us to marginality, and discrimination. There is a need for feminism to analyze how the common ground of labour expressions arising out of menstruation and sex-work creates intersectional socio-economic discrimination. The paper will reveal embodied expressions of menstrual and sexual labour mediating secondary and inferior labour identities in women's employment. Exclusionary working conditions define, regulate, and govern these informal economies' sexual and gender character, has severe consequences and, therefore, needs the protection of these communities' rights.
"Feminism, Sexuality, Gender, Labour: Invisible Stigma of Sex Work and Menstrual Labour in India,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 23:
4, Article 7.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol23/iss4/7