Global Resources

Feminism, Power, and Sex Work In the Context of HIV/AIDS: Consequences For Women's Health.

Author: A. Ahmed
Publisher: Harvard Law School
Publication Date: Jan 2011

The recognition that women’s inequality may be a driver of women’s vulnerability to contracting HIV has led to a series of feminist legal responses in an effort to address HIV. One of the deepest fault lines between feminist legal reform projects to reduce the HIV vulnerability of women is on the issue of sex work. Sex workers’ vulnerability to contracting HIV is great, and in turn the prevalence of HIV among sex workers is very high.

Some feminists (called domination or abolitionist feminists) rely heavily on criminal prohibitions to address sex workers’ vulnerability to HIV. Other feminists (namely sex-positive or sex-radical feminists) and sex worker activists call for a legal response that relies on decriminalization of sex work in order to reduce the incidence of HIV in the sex work community.

This article assesses feminists’ conflicting legal, policy, and regulatory proposals to address sex workers’ vulnerability to contracting HIV. This article employs a Governance Feminism (“GF”) analysis that allows for the assessment of feminists as powerful actors in the institutions that govern HIV. This Article focuses on two cases in which particular legal and policy proposals can be traced directly to feminist engagement and disagreement: the drafting of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS Guidance Note on Sex Work and the creation and implementation of the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath.

Adapted from source