To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa [Book & Video]
To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa by Chi Adanna Mgbako is an incredibly well-written, unique, and important contribution to the conversation around sex work and considered to be the first book to fully document the sex workers’ rights movement in Africa.
Chi Adanna Mgbako, a Clinical Professor of Law in the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, drew upon her original fieldwork from seven African countries, including interviews with 160 sex worker activists, to write To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa, a story of the brave men and women at the heart of the sex workers’ rights movement across the continent.
The first-person testimonies give the reader an invaluable insight into the strength and determination various activists have displayed in the face of the many adversities that flow from the marginalization of entire groups of people. The book introduces the reader to the subject of sex work, and then goes on to explain the various harms that flow from criminalization and the status of activism in different countries throughout Africa, supported throughout by research and the narratives of those on the ground. This book is an excellent asset to anyone interested in activism, human rights, feminism, and beyond. [Elizabeth Gavin]
“To say this is a groundbreaking book is an understatement. Well written and elegant … This book will change the conversation about sex work in Africa,” Northeastern University Professor Aziza Ahmed said.
An engagingly written account of sex worker activism over the last decade or so, with a focus on the present, in eight different African countries. […] While the author is an American academic, she has placed the voices of sex workers at the centre of the narrative, and the result is a strongly argued, moving look at the topic. It’s never a difficult read.
I came to this knowing very little about Africa, and a bit more about sex work, and at times it felt the expected audience was the other way – I missed a bit, I think, by not having a stronger background in African society and culture. Many of the glimpses intrigued me – the realities of sex worker culture when gay and lesbian relationships are illegal, the intersection of HIV and sex work in a society where HIV/AIDS is so common – but sometimes it felt that the narrative was jumping too quickly to understand.
What does stand out is the incredible voices of people who demand respect, who fight for safe working practices and who display such inspiring solidarity in the face of stigma, police violence and social exclusion. Definitely worth reading. [Alison Dellit]
Video interview with Chi Adanna Mgbako
Watch below an interview organised by the Center for African Studies at Howard University, where Chi Adanna Mgbako discusses this book and the birth, growth, the challenges and the successes of the sex workers rights in Africa. She also talks about how and who coined the term “sex work” in the 1970s, how it was embraced with fierce political devotion by the sex workers themselves and grassroot political organisations to advance the rights of those who are performing a job and have the right to do it free from violence and debilitating stigmatisation.