The Nexus Between Sex-Work and Women’s Empowerment in the Context of Transitional Societies of Southeast Asia

  • Natalia Szablewska
  • Clara Bradley
Part of the Springer Series in Transitional Justice book series (SSTJ, volume 4)


In this chapter we attempt to create a dialogical space exploring the need for transitional justice processes to engage in development issues by examining the meaning of women’s empowerment within the sex-work discourse in transitional societies. Drawing on sex workers’ narratives in Southeast Asia we discuss the diversity of the sex industry and the motivations to enter into it. Inclusion of sex workers’ narratives in the debate becomes instrumental in helping to appreciate the complexity of pathways of women’s empowerment in transitional societies by highlighting how women’s sexual relationships define and affect women’s political, social and economic empowerment. By focusing on sex-work within the empowerment discourse we attempt to illustrate the dangers of generalisations and the negative impact of development and transitional justice mechanisms that lack sensitivity to the local context. We argue that for wider social transformative changes to take place in transitional societies women’s rights must not merely be acknowledged, but rather transitional processes and mechanisms must prioritise the facilitation of empowerment of the vulnerable, including women and the particular groups within.


Sex-work Empowerment Transitional justice Southeast Asia Women’s rights Development 



We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the presented arguments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law and JusticeSouthern Cross UniversityBilingaAustralia

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