NEW A Study on Commercial Sex work in Addis Ababa
Unlike the situation a few decades ago, commercial sex in Addis Ababa has increasingly become an occupation of women born and brought up in the city, a study reveals.
The new study, Poverty and the Social Context of Sex Work in Addis Ababa, by Bethelehem Tekola*, indicates that more than 50% of the women who are engaged in the commercial sex are born and grew up in the city.
The expansion of urban poverty over the last three decades and the further socio-economic complications are the main reasons that the majority of the sex workers are indigenous to the city, says the author in her monograph published by the Forum for Social Studies (FSS).
The study conducted in the citys major sex trade centers of Mercato, Piazza, Arat Kilo, Kasanchis, Cherkos, Meshualekia and Kolfe involved a sample of 100 sex workers. It has revealed that the majority, 73%, of the women started commercial sex as teenagers. Even though the women cited various push factors that contributed to engage to commercial sex, the major factor that forced 63% of them was escaping economic hardship.
The study criticises the very common castigation attached to sex workers as being social misfits who pose dangers to society. The study proposes a humane approach towards them and their dependents. This should begin by making a clear distinction between the institution of commercial sex and women who practice it, the author suggests. Almost all of the participants covered in the study maintain social ties and carry obligations as heads of families or bread winners and other tasks that society values.
The study has identified seven distinct types of sex work practiced in the city based on venues and conditions of work; Street or Asphalt, Small drinking houses, Bar, Hotel/Club, Yetewosene Akafay - those who work on the bed owned by others who work for fixed payment to the owner, Ikul Akafay- Equal Share, those who give 50% - and on the Bed- Be-alga. Women in all the various forms of sex work are exposed to greater exploitation by those who have direct or indirect control over residential or venue space, the study reveals.
According to the researcher this implies that strategies for dealing with sex trade should focus more on curbing the many problems associated with it.
Though the degree as well as the forms of vulnerability of the sex workers to HIV depends, among other things on the type of sex work that the women involve in, the author argues that they become more vulnerable in their non-paying relation with the men which they call lovers, husbands, or, friends than their paying or commercial customers. The women reported that they are engaged in unrestricted and almost unprotected sexual relationships with these partners.
The study suggests that affirmative action should focus more on poor women who suffer from severe economic and social marginalization rather than on understanding its general sense of expanding opportunities for women in general.
Acknowledgment ... . .i
Abstract ... ... .ii
Chapter One ... ... 1
1 Work, Identity and Social Life among Commercial Sex Workers in Addis Ababa ... ..1
2 A Humane Approach to Commercial Sex-Workers and their Dependents 3
3 Preliminary Explorations .. . 5
4 General Observations on Fieldwork among sex workers 15
5 Scope and Limitations of the Study .. ..18
6 Prostitutes vs. Sex Workers: What is in a name? .20
7 Organization of the book .22
Chapter Two .. ..24
1 Western Images and Approaches: From the Upper Class Courtesan to the Worker-Whore .25
2 African Images and Approaches: From the Cultural Rebel to the Sexual Entrepreneur ... .36
3 Ethiopian Images and Approaches: Rural Women Lost in Town ...39
Chapter Three .44
1 Laketch Dirasses Classification of Sex Workers in Addis Ababa ....45
2 Andargatchew Tesfayes Classification of Sex Workers in Addis Ababa .48
3 Towards a Comprehensive Differentiation: Work, Residence and other Socioeconomic Variables .. .52
Chapter Four ... 75
1 The Akafay: Sex Work for Fixed Share and the Women Behind it ... 76
2 Sex-work on Equal-Share . .81
3 Independent Home-based Sex-work and the Women Behind it 83
4 Asphalt Sex-Work and the Women Behind It .. .86
5 Hotel and Nightclub Xex Work and the Women Behind it .. .95
6 Sex Work out of Bars and the Women Behind it . ..99
7 Sex Work out of Drinking Places and the Women Behind it . .103
8 Conclusion .. .107
Chapter Five .. 110
1 Affirming Social Ties: The Dilemmas and Strategies of Sustained Contact .111
2 Putting Social Ties on Hold: The Dilemmas and Strategies of Avoidance 120
3 Building Social Ties and Networks: The Dilemmas and Strategies of Socialization ....124
4 Conclusion .. .135
Chapter Six .. .137
This book explores the social context of sex work in the city of Addis Ababa. It focuses on the social ties between sex workers and a variety of other categories of people, from their family members to their relatives, from their roommates to their neighbors, from their coworkers to their clients. It explores which of these social ties are affirmed and reinforced, which come under strain and which are cultivated and built by the women as a result of their engagement in sex work. It argues that these things depend on the womens background, on the conditions under which they turn to sex work, on the specific types and conditions of sex work that they do and on the places and conditions of their residence. The main thesis of the work is that sex workers share the same social milieu and value system with non-sex workers and that, despite severe constraints put on them by poverty and very difficult working conditions, they struggle on a daily basis to have social life and social relevance. The work critiques the very common castigation of sex workers as social misfits who pose dangers to society and proposes a humane approach towards them and their dependents, an approach that should begin by making a clear distinction between the institution of commercial sex and the women who practice it.
The work employs both qualitative and quantitative methodology. It combines detailed one-to-one interviewing with focus group discussions and personal observation to bring out the perspectives of the women themselves. The quantitative data is composed of responses to a structured questionnaire by 100 sex workers.
The book begins with a critical review of existing literature on commercial sex work. The review establishes that in the West, in Africa, as well as in Ethiopia, sex workers have often been conflated with sex work itself; that they have been described either as sick and immoral people or as victims of male domination and abuse; and that they are described as such in categorical terms, without any attempt at internally differentiating among them.
The book then suggests a scheme for a classification of the sex workers of Addis Ababa. The scheme is based on those variables that determine the terms and conditions of social interaction between the women and wider society. They include the womens backgrounds, the circumstances of their entry into sex work, the terms and conditions of work, the terms and conditions of residence and the degree and forms of dependent relationships in which they are involved. The analysis of sex work in Addis Ababa on the basis of these variables suggests significant shifts in the social background of the women who engage in it as well as in the organization of the work. The fourth chapter of the book employs this scheme and works out a classification of the sex worker population in the city. Seven distinct types of sex work are identified. The organization of work and residence in each of the types is discussed, followed by descriptions of the general profile of the women who operate in each type. Finally, the implication of this classification for the social behavior of the women is discussed.
Key words: Addis Ababa, sex work, sex workers, prostitution, prostitutes, social ties, identity, morality, patriarchy, feminism, differentiation, migration, housing.
Address: Forum for Social Studies, P. O. Box 25864 code 1000 Addis Ababa,