For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Gendered Carceral Regimes in Sri Lanka: Colonial Laws, Postcolonial Practices, and the Social Control of Sex Workers"

by Miller, Jody; Carbone-Lopez, Kristin (2013)


Across time and place, semicarceral institutions extend the arms of the state to control women’s perceived moral and sexual transgressions. In this article, we examine the case of Sri Lanka, where the criminalization of women who participate in transactional sex is a prominent feature of gendered social control. We trace how vestiges of British colonial law intersect with Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, militarization, and the gendered liberalization of Sri Lanka’s economy to heighten national anxieties about women’s sexuality and sexual practices, culminating in penal excesses directed at those engaged in commercial sex. Yet processes of carceral control are never seamless: we also trace their unevenness in practice, investigating what they reveal about tensions between Sinhala Buddhist ideals of respectable womanhood, reformation, and the realities of marginalized women’s lives in contemporary Sri Lanka.

Key Passage



Sex Work, Prostitution, Sexual Economy, Sri Lanka, Womens Work, Female Labour, Post-Colonialism, Buddhism


Women and Work, Sex Work

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