Volume 15(1), 2019-02, 79—99

Female sex workers' use of mobile phones in India: Lessons in effective engagement

Subadra Panchanadeswaran
Adelphi University School of Social Work
Garden City, NY
USA

Ardra Manasi Unnithan
Independent Research Consultant
New York, NY
USA

Shubha Chacko
Solidarity Foundation
Bengaluru
India

Michael Brazda
Center for Aging Studies
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Baltimore, MD
USA

Natalie Brooks Wilson
Adelphi University School of Social Work
Garden City, NY
USA

Santushi Kuruppu
Independent Not-for-Profit Advisor
New York, NY
USA

Despite the widespread impact of mobile phone technology, research on female sex workers’ (FSWs) access and use of this technology is sparse. This study aimed to document FSWs’ subjective perceptions of the benefits of mobile phone technology as well as examine the potential for its use by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Employing a phenomenological study built on in-depth qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with 67 FSWs and 18 staff and leaders from local NGOs in Mumbai and various locations of the Karnataka State in India between January and May 2015. Findings revealed complex trajectories for FSWs regarding accessing, learning about, and using mobile phone technology. FSW participants highlighted enhanced social connectedness with clients and their communities while NGO personnel underscored the newer ways of engagement with FSWs with mobile phone technology. Study findings point to both opportunities and challenges posed by FSWs’ extensive use of mobile phone technology.

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