Examining hopes, aspirations, and future plans of women in non-brothel-based sex work in Kolkata, India

Sunny Sinha, Indulata Prasad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sex work can offer a quick way of making money and is the only profession in which women may earn more in fewer hours when compared to other available jobs. However, most studies with sex workers in India are based on socially biased assumptions about sex work; that is, women are either coerced or trafficked into sex work. Limited attention has been paid to the voices of non-brothel-based sex workers in India. Drawing data from a larger ethnographic study conducted between December 2009 and July 2010, this paper analyses how women sex workers operating from non-brothel-based sex work settings in Kolkata, India, foresee their future. Unlike the popular ‘victim imagery’ of women sex workers in the Global South, this study found that women are not passive recipients of the trade; instead, they employ agency - sometimes transgressing the normative boundaries and at times reinscribing these boundaries to secure a future for themselves and their families. Therefore, to promote HIV preventive behaviour programmes reaching out to sex workers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) must proactively inquire about women’s future plans and assist them in materialising their future goals, which are mostly concerned with their children’s future, a life free of stigma/shame, and financial security in old age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-926
Number of pages14
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021


  • HIV risk
  • India
  • Perceived future
  • prostitution
  • sex workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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