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This paper explores the relationship between sex worker activism and HIV-related discourse in Bangladesh, relating recent developments in activism to the influence of feminist thought. Following their eviction in from brothels from red light areas, Bangladeshi sex workers started a social movement, at just about the same time that programmes started to work with sex workers to reduce the transmission of HIV.
This paper argues that both sex worker activism and HIV-prevention initiatives find impetus in feminist pro-sex-work perspectives, which place emphasis on individual and collective agency.
It was only during the s that sex workers 1 in Bangladesh became visible in public discourse. This was largely the result of sex worker activism, which was a response to their eviction from brothels in , and their identification as a key population at heightened risk in HIV discourse. Through activism, sex workers demanded greater recognition of their identity as workers and called for the realisation of rights equal to those of other citizens.
Such a perspective is also reflected in HIV programmes in Bangladesh, which often focus on the empowerment of sex workers so that they can exert agency and play a role in HIV prevention. The already prevailing identity of sex workers as socially dangerous is reflected by HIV discourses that portray sex workers as vectors of disease to the general population.
Anti-sex-work perspectives regard sex work as a manifestation of violence against women, because it validates men's mastery over women MacKinnon , as cited in Anderson , According to the perspectives advocated by some radical feminists, sex work is the manifestation of ultimate inequality Anderson in which male sexual desire is satisfied at the expense of turning women into sex objects.