Coping with Violence: Women in Sex Work and Transgender People in Karnataka, India

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Mangala SUBRAMANIAM, Department of Sociology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA, Purdue University, USA
Zachary D. PALMER, Purdue University, USA
Vasundhara KAUL, Purdue University, USA
HIV prevention involves a sprawling structure, comprising a range of actors ranging from translocal network of governments, multinational corporations, international development agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), support groups, and community organizations (COs) particularly in the global south. The prevention program has enabled the formation of a set of people and organizations in formal positions of authority which rarely acknowledge the repositories of expertise created within ‘communities’ of high risk groups such as women in sex work (henceforth referred to as sex workers) and transgender people. These repositories of information have facilitated the ‘institutionalization’ of expertise which is key to addressing intimate partner violence (IPV). Departing from the typical focus on forms of violence faced and types of perpetrators, we discern the mechanisms adopted by sex workers and transgender people to cope with violence. What forms of information do sex workers and transgender people draw upon to cope with IPV? How is this information based (or not) within COs? Coping strategies adopted, we argue, are based on tools and techniques shared through formal mechanisms and informally by CO members.

In this paper, we rely on qualitative interviews with 25 sex workers and 15 transgender people in Karnataka state (India) to examine and compare how they manage and cope with IPV. COs serve as structural interventions and spaces for sharing information which enables the institutionalization of coping mechanisms enabling members to draw upon the expertise embedded within the organization. However, access of such expertise could be uneven based on status differences CO members (by age and if holding a formal position or not within the CO). The complex intertwined relations between the sex worker and transgender people and the CO requires connecting the individual and structural to understand IPV coping strategies that can facilitate the replication and scaling up of the accumulated expertise.