The female sex work typology in India in the context of HIV/AIDS


OBJECTIVE: To conduct a critical review of the typology of female sex work in India. METHOD: Published and unpublished studies (1986-2008) were identified through electronic databases, hand searching and contacting experts. RESULTS: The review assesses the appropriateness of the existing typologies from a programmatic perspective and identifies their strengths and limitations. It indicates there is conceptual confusion around the typology and that none of the existing typologies are exhaustive, in that none includes all types of sex work documented in India. The typology developed by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is the most comprehensive. The typology is based on the primary place of solicitation and categorizes female sex workers (FSWs) as brothel-based, street-based, home-based, lodge-based, dhaba-based and highway-based FSWs. However, this typology has its limitations. First, it does not include all categories of FSWs documented in the literature, such as indirect-primary (primarily solicit clients at their places of work, which are venues where facilitating sex work is their main purpose e.g. massage parlours, bars), indirect-secondary (primarily solicit clients at their places of work, which are in non-sex work related industries e.g. agriculture, construction) and phone-based FSWs (primarily solicit clients through phones). Second, the methodology used to develop the typology proposed by NACO or by any other researchers is not explicit. In addition, the extent to which the typology captures the HIV risk variability between FSWs types is not explored. CONCLUSION: There is a need to develop an evidence-based, inclusive typology which takes account of HIV risk for researchers and programmers. [References: 61]


Buzdugan R, Halli SS, Cowan FM.




  • Population(s)
    • Sex workers


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