Unionizing sex workers: The Karnataka experience

Subadra Panchanadeswaran, Gowri Vijayakumar, Shubha Chacko, Andy Bhanot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Studies that capture sex workers' experiences, as activists in collectives and unions, are scarce. In India, the Karnataka Sex Workers' Union (KSWU) materialized as a direct response to the violation of sex workers' rights. The goal of this qualitative study was to review KSWU's journey through the years. Forty-eight respondents participated in eight focus group discussions. Findings revealed the complexity of addressing the disparate needs of the heterogeneous group of sex workers in Karnataka. KSWU's experiences suggest the potential for hybrid models of organizing that integrate activism with service provision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-156
Number of pages18
JournalStudies in Law Politics and Society
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Activism
  • Karnataka
  • Prostitution
  • Sex workers
  • Sex workers' union

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law

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    Panchanadeswaran, S., Vijayakumar, G., Chacko, S., & Bhanot, A. (2016). Unionizing sex workers: The Karnataka experience. Studies in Law Politics and Society, 71, 139-156. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1059-433720160000071007