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Challenging the stigma of sex work in India: material context and symbolic change

Cornish, Flora ORCID: 0000-0002-3404-9385 (2006) Challenging the stigma of sex work in India: material context and symbolic change. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 16 (6). pp. 462-471. ISSN 1052-9284

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Identification Number: 10.1002/casp.894


Stigmatization and discrimination against social groups raise obstacles to the participation of their members in community interventions. Internalized stigma and a lack of empowering experiences promote fatalistic expectations that little can be achieved. This paper discusses how the Sonagachi Project in Kolkata, India, challenges stigma as part of its community development and health promotion efforts with sex workers, drawing on interviews with 19 sex workers involved in the Project and one group discussion among the Project's leaders. The internalized stigma of prostitution is challenged (1) by asserting that sex workers have rights which should be respected, (2) by claiming equivalence to other oppressed but politically successful groups and (3) by providing evidence of sex workers' positive achievements. These arguments are made plausible to sex workers by a material context that provides evidence and experience of the possibility of change. I conclude that interventions designed to problematize stigma and discrimination should back up the conceptual alternatives that they present by producing concrete changes to a community's living conditions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2012 08:27
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:42

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