Nonfiction / Law
Date Published: December 21, 2021
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Sex work occupies a legally gray space in Johannesburg, South Africa, and
police attitudes towards it are inconsistent and largely unregulated. As I.
India Thusi argues in Policing Bodies, this results in both room for
negotiation that can benefit sex workers and also extreme precarity in which
the security police officers provide can be offered and taken away at a
moment’s notice. Sex work straddles the line between formal and informal.
Attitudes about beauty and subjective value are manifest in formal tasks,
including police activities, which are often conducted in a seemingly ad hoc
manner. However, high-level organizational directives intended to regulate
police obligations and duties toward sex workers also influence police
action and tilt the exercise of discretion to the formal. In this liminal
space, this book considers how sex work is policed and how it should be
policed. Challenging discourses about sexuality and gender that inform its
regulation, Thusi exposes the limitations of dominant feminist arguments
regarding the legal treatment of sex work. This in-depth, historically
informed ethnography illustrates the tension between enforcing a country’s
laws and protecting citizens’ human rights.
About the Author
I. India Thusi is Professor of Law at Indiana University Bloomington Maurer
School of Law, with a joint appointment at the Kinsey Institute. She has
worked with the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional
Rights, and The Opportunity Agenda.
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