By Sreya Banerjea

Abstract: This presentation employs a transnational feminist lens and critical legal perspective to offer an intersectional analysis on the social and economic impact of two coinciding events – the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Covid-19 pandemic – on internal and external migrant sex workers in India. I am concerned about their well-being and survival needs as they are overlooked or inadequately addressed through government policies and protective measures. I begin by offering a critical reflection on how implicit and explicit state-induced violence imposed on the professional and intimate lives of sex workers are influenced by colonial, patriarchal and capitalist approaches to women’s mobility and reproductive labour. Then, I discuss the ways in which prevailing oppression of gender, class, and sexuality experienced by sex workers have been exacerbated as a result of the conditions formed by the pandemic.

These include economic inequities, the shift to digital platforms or other methods of engaging in sex work, displacement, lack of access to essential resources, segregation, and mobility constraints. This is followed by an examination of the extent to which migrant sex workers are included and excluded in government responses. The third and final section of this article explains how sex workers’ mobilization, collaborative initiatives, and survival stories depict their agentive capabilities to cope and respond to structural inequality and epistemic violence.

Keywords:  sex work, India, Covid-19 pandemic, mobility politics, citizenship

Sreya Banerjea recently completed her PhD from the Center for Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She previously completed MA in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies from York University, Toronto. Her thesis project explored interstate and interregional marriage migration and trafficking in India. Through life stories and personal narratives of brides and their lived experiences of marriage, migration, and trafficking, her PhD research project contributes to the development of local and rural women’s epistemology in the broader field of gender studies. Presently, she is looking into the impact of spatial regulation and gentrification on everyday lives of sex workers and their children in India, and how it transforms the patterns and processes of social reproduction. Sreya’s research interests are situated in the areas of postcolonial theory, transnational feminist perspectives, and social anthropology; critical legal perspectives; gender and sexual politics in South Asia and in the diaspora; sex work, trafficking, migration; qualitative research methods and feminist research methodology. –