Marywood University News

Dr. Sunny Sinha Co-Authors Diversity of Sex Work Paper

Sunny Sinha, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Social Work at Marywood University, recently co-authored an original paper titled, “Diversity in Sex Work in India: Challenging Stereotypes Regarding Sex Workers.” 

In the paper, Dr. Sinha and her co-authors examine how sex work is often characterized by images of coercion, poverty, destitution and lack of agency, but how research indicates that sex work in India is more diverse than these popular representations. Moving beyond inaccurate tropes of sex workers as solely being oppressed victims, this paper aims to shed light on the diversity of sex work in India by sharing themes found across four studies conducted in three different urban areas of India including Mumbai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. 

The research highlights that within the diverse umbrella of sex work in India, there are unique subgroups of sex workers whose particular issues often become lost in a monolithic and reductionist narrative of sex work. For the research, the co-authors found that, contrary to popular myths, (1) sex workers are not passive recipients of the trade; (2) sex workers often live in families and have multiple identities as mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers; (3) sex workers increasingly operate from non-brothel-based settings; (4) sex workers are not only women, but also identify as cisgender male, and third gender/transgender; and finally, (5) HIV is often not the most pressing, self-reported health concern for sex workers.

In addition to her role as an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Marywood University, Dr. Sinha is also a Fahs-Beck Scholar, a doctoral dissertation grant program that helps support dissertation expenses of students in the U.S. and Canada. She earned her Ph.D. degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Her research and scholarship focus on a wide range of global issues, including HIV prevention, trafficking, and issues related to gender, race, class, and sexuality. She has published mostly on the issues of non-brothel-based female sex workers in Kolkata, India. Dr. Sinha is also the recipient of the Michael H. Agar Lively Science Award for 2018.