Sex worker activists throughout Africa are demanding an end to the criminalization of sex work and the recognition of their human rights to safe working conditions, health and justice services, and lives free from violence and discrimination. To Live Freely in This World is the first book to tell the story of the brave activists at the beating heart of the sex workers’ rights movement in Africa—the newest and most vibrant face of the global sex workers’ rights struggle. African sex worker activists are proving that communities facing human rights abuses are not bereft of agency. They’re challenging politicians, religious fundamentalists, and anti-prostitution advocates; confronting the multiple stigmas that affect the diverse members of their communities; engaging in intersectional movement building with similarly marginalized groups; and participating in the larger global sex workers’ rights struggle in order to determine their social and political fate.
By locating this counter-narrative in Africa, To Live Freely in This World challenges disempowering and one-dimensional depictions of “degraded Third World prostitutes” and helps fill what has been a gaping hole in feminist scholarship regarding sex work in the African context. Based on original fieldwork in seven African countries, including Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda, Chi Adanna Mgbako draws on extensive interviews with over 160 African female and male (cisgender and transgender) sex worker activists, and weaves their voices and experiences into a fascinating, richly-detailed, and powerful examination of the history and continuing activism of this young movement.
"Though sex workers rights movements are globally interconnected, in practice, we are still often isolated, failing to learn from each other.To Live Freely in This Worldserves as a source text for western sex workers to study the success of their African counterparts. Certainly, it turns the Eurocentric notion that western movements are somehow more advanced right on its head." ~Make/Shift
"This book should appeal to all social work educators in general, but it is particularly relevant for courses in diversity, sexuality, gender inequality/women’s issues, social welfare policy, and social justice. It would make a compelling read for advanced year social policy course, as there is much to learn about advocacy skills from the sex worker’s movement in Africa. The strategies of informal and formal political resistance and intersectional movement building illustrated in this book can be applied to organize and energize any social movements. It is also an excellent resource for social work practitioners who want to understand how issues of gender and sexuality intersect with the issues related to HIV prevention, sex work, and trafficking." ~Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work
"The book is accessible and clear, without the use of jargon... The people profiled clearly explain how criminal justice law and policy and implementation affect them, preventing their ability to access justice, as in the murders that remain uninvestigated. The extensive profiles convey a sense of real engagement with the people and their lives. Black and white photographs of profiled activists humanize them; they are not merely names on the page working in places unfamiliar to most readers... This book is strongly recommended for classes addressing human rights, including law and pre-law programs; undergraduate classes examining the developing world; and women’s studies classes, especially those looking at marginalized groups like sex workers, and African people. The book brings attention to the murder of sex workers, and in doing so offers hope that the growing sex worker rights movement in Africa will see progress in promoting human rights and combating indifference." ~International Journal of Feminist Politics
"This monograph presents the first book-length study on sex workers activism in Africa, and it makes an important contribution, not only to feminist debates about sex work, but also to the scholarship of social movements and activism in contemporary Africa." ~African Affairs
"By taking the sex worker's narratives as data, Mgbako paints a picture of a more layered landscape to sex work activism than what we normally hear about on an international level." ~Feministing.com
"Mgbako's incomparable To Live Freely in This World brings readers the here-and-now stories of African sex workers who are fighting for human rights. As the author reminds us, their struggles for dignity and respect were born in the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements of earlier times, and are being revitalized through this new century's network of sex worker activists from around the world." ~Melinda Chateauvert,author of Sex Workers Unite! A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk
"A detailed study of the history and ongoing activism of the sex workers’ movement in Africa. It shows how this young movement is blossoming – despite pervasive challenges – and contributes an African perspective to feminist debate about sex work. Based on a wide range of interviews and participant observation from fieldwork in seven focus countries (Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, and Nigeria), the author argues that African sex worker activists determine their social and political fate through strategic, informed choices … As scholars endeavor to fill literature gaps related to sex workers’ rights (in Africa, as well as centering on movements in the United States, Europe, and Asia), this book provides a critical resource for policy makers, students, and those interested in furthering their knowledge of debates related to sex workers’ rights." ~Human Rights Review
"Mgbako’s groundbreaking project champions the human rights and agency of these workers and documents their increasing activism... To Live Freely in This World is well-written and engaging. The author includes many notes and a lengthy bibliography of scholarly and legal sources. The greatest strength of the work, however, is the collective testimony Mgbako presents from transcribed interviews with a range of sex workers, revealing their determination and commitment to reach out to other activists locally and globally to move their cause forward. These first-person accounts, coupled with the author’s perceptive analysis of the methods and strategies for building activism, make for a profound work that enhances not only the study of sex workers in particular but also feminist scholarship in general. A vital addition to academic collections." ~Feminist Collections
"To say this is a groundbreaking book is an understatement. Well-written and elegant, Mgbako'sresearch reveals the rise of African sex work activism and the ongoing trials and tribulations of organizing in the face of economic, social, and political adversity. As one of the worlds foremost scholars on sex work in Africa, Mgbako'sincisive analysis allows us to explore questions of human rights, consent, and coercion in the sex work context. This book will change the conversation about sex work in Africa, and globally, while forcing those who resist sex worker organizing to confront a movement that has only just begun." ~Aziza Ahmed,Northeastern University
"I taught To Live Freely in this World in an upper-level course, Gender and Sexuality in Africa, and the students gained a lot from it. They told me that they appreciated that Mgbako used herself as a vehicle to let others speak and that the book was based on empowerment and not degradation. It challenged their views on dominant representations of gender and sexuality in Africa, as well as gave them another set of narratives about African agency and organizing. I think To Live Freely in this World would be an excellent teaching tool in a variety of courses on human rights, African studies, gender and sexuality, and social organizing." ~Human Rights Quarterly
"To Live Freely in This World is an essential contribution to our understanding of how sex workers resist and make change. The stories Chi Mgbako has gathered in her original research highlight sex workers' own analysisof their work, the inequality they face, and their commitment to justice. Journalists, human rights advocates, and feminists will find a wealth of inspiration here for further study and solidarity." ~Melissa Gira Grant,author of Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work
"Mgbako contributes to closing a gap in knowledge on sex work and sex work activism in Africa. The book’s anchoring in personal stories and experiences of sex workers is an attempt to move away from the tendency of non-sex workers to speak for sex workers, and to let the latter speak for themselves. Fortunately, as is shown throughout the book, African sex workers are independently and fiercely creating more and more platforms from where to speak and be heard." ~Feminist Review