Elsa Oliveira is affiliated with the African Centre for Migration and Society (formerly known as Forced Migration Studies Programme), University of Witwatersrand. She is interested in the areas of gender, sexuality, migration, identities and urban health. In 2010, Elsa co-coordinated a participatory photo project for her MA research that sought to explore the relationship between urban space and self-representation with migrant women who sell sex in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Elsa plans to begin her doctoral studies this year.
Application: The (Un) healthy body in Southern Africa: Disciplinary approaches to corporeal dimensions of health.
This paper will examine the role that structural violence plays in the health experiences of migrant sex workers by engaging in two participatory studies that were conducted at the African Centre of Migration and Society (ACMS) in inner city Johannesburg. During the course of these two participatory projects, participants shared life stories of abuse, discrimination, and health/ill health.
Migrant sex workers are confronted by socio-economic and structural factors, which they navigate through the formulation of complex survival strategies. The factors present themselves in various configurations, but responses to them by migrant sex workers, may be better understood by exploring the contextually unique power and strategies that exist across all levels of macro and micro societies.
On a macro level, health care systems are often over-burdened and under-staffed. This reality gives rise to discriminatory practices that are often exacerbated by unjust political systems and stereotypes. The criminalization of sex work can perpetuate already inflated notions of migrant hostility, sex work abuse, as well as pose incredible challenges for public health officials attempting to prevent/reduce the spread of HIV.
On a micro level, experiences of health amongst individuals may not be synonymous with the biomedical interpretation/explanation of health. Often times, health is a cultural experience and the treatment/prevention of health a unique process that recognizes the individual as more than a human corporeal entity.
This paper will examine structural violence on both a macro and micro level, as well as give special attention to the role that plural systems of health plays in the concept of health/ill health. Furthermore, it will explore treatment experiences that span diverse cultural realms in the lives of migrant women sex workers in South Africa.