"It's not a nice job but if God provides then I am not wrong": exploring notions of belonging, exclusion and of being "immoral" amongst migrant sex workers in inner city Johannesburg
Rebecca Walker (University of Witwatersrand)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores experiences of belonging, exclusion and notions of morality amongst migrant sex workers in Johannesburg. Recognizing that such lives are marked by notions of mobility, temporality and ‘otherness’ the paper asks what it means to belong in hostile and moralizing environments.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores notions of belonging, of exclusion and of morality amongst cross-border and internal South African migrant sex workers in Johannesburg. In particular it considers their "double vulnerability" engaging in work that is illegal in South Africa and also being non-nationals (often undocumented) as they attempt to negotiate everyday experiences of risk and exploitation. In Johannesburg, a city with the largest proportion of South Africa's migrant community, migrant sex workers face discrimination and abuse from the very institutions and spaces purporting to support or "save" them (including clinics, shelters and churches). On the other hand there is also a strong sex worker movement in South Africa (run by sex workers for sex workers) advocating for the decriminalization of sex work and a decoupling of ideas of sex work with particular kinds of moralization and notions of victimhood. Drawing from interviews with female migrant sex workers this paper seeks to highlight the lived experiences of those who find themselves caught between those two spaces - they do not wish to be saved and condemned for what they do yet, often due to the vulnerabilities they face as migrants, do not identify with the activism of the sex worker movement. Recognizing that migrant sex workers' lives are marked by notions of mobility, temporality and 'otherness' the paper asks what it means to belong when unable to fit into specific discourses and spaces and, how this maps onto ideas of morality when engaging in work that is deemed "immoral" by the state.
Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?