Labours in Vice or Virtue? Neo-Liberalism, Sexual Commerce, and the Case of Indian Bar Dancing

20 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2010

See all articles by Prabha Kotiswaran

Prabha Kotiswaran

King's College London – The Dickson Poon School of Law

Abstract

Of late, the Indian state has adopted an abolitionist stance towards sex work and bar dancing. This article argues that although in the Indian state of Maharashtra, the judicial overturning of the ban against bar dancing has been celebrated by feminists as a triumph of women's right to livelihood over patriarchal demands of women's sexual morality, the judgment is predicated on a sharp distinction between morally ‘good’ and ‘bad’ female labour, namely, bar dancing and sex work. This is ironic given their striking sociological similarities and the stigmatization and levels of state abuse inflicted against both. The article considers the usefulness of the totalizing logic of neo-liberalism for explaining the increased judicial and feminist tolerance for bar dancing. The article argues that prospects for redistributive law reform for all sexual workers are dim unless the arbitrary legal distinctions drawn between markets in female sexual labour are overcome.

Suggested Citation

Kotiswaran, Prabha, Labours in Vice or Virtue? Neo-Liberalism, Sexual Commerce, and the Case of Indian Bar Dancing. Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 37, Issue 1, pp. 105-124, March 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1558070 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2010.00497.x

Prabha Kotiswaran (Contact Author)

King's College London – The Dickson Poon School of Law ( email )

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