A new book for a new year. Here’s one to add to our 2016 feminist reading list, just released from NYU press.
To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa by Chi Adanna Mgbako
From the publisher’s website:
Sex worker activists throughout Africa are demanding an end to the criminalization of sex work and the recognition of their human rights to safe working conditions, health and justice services, and lives free from violence and discrimination. To Live Freely in This World is the first book to tell the story of the brave activists at the beating heart of the sex workers’ rights movement in Africa—the newest and most vibrant face of the global sex workers’ rights struggle. African sex worker activists are proving that communities facing human rights abuses are not bereft of agency. They’re challenging politicians, religious fundamentalists, and anti-prostitution advocates; confronting the multiple stigmas that affect the diverse members of their communities; engaging in intersectional movement building with similarly marginalized groups; and participating in the larger global sex workers’ rights struggle in order to determine their social and political fate.By locating this counter-narrative in Africa, To Live Freely in This World challenges disempowering and one-dimensional depictions of “degraded Third World prostitutes” and helps fill what has been a gaping hole in feminist scholarship regarding sex work in the African context. Based on original fieldwork in seven African countries, including Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda, Chi Adanna Mgbako draws on extensive interviews with over 160 African female and male (cisgender and transgender) sex worker activists, and weaves their voices and experiences into a fascinating, richly-detailed, and powerful examination of the history and continuing activism of this young movement.
Chi Adanna Mgbako is clinical professor of law and director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School. In partnership with grassroots organizations, she and her students work on human rights projects focusing on sex workers’ rights, women’s rights, criminal justice reform, and access to justice. She has conducted human rights fieldwork in many countries, among them Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, and the United States.
Under Mgbako’s direction, the clinic has conducted human rights trainings on women and HIV/AIDS, female genital cutting, and LGBT refugee rights; published human rights reports on access to safe abortion and police abuse of marginalized communities; ran mobile legal aid clinics in rural communities; contributed legal research to lawsuits challenging the forced HIV testing of sex workers; submitted claims to the United Nations on behalf of arbitrarily detained prisoners; and consulted organizations on best practices of community-based paralegal programs, among many other projects.
Mgbako’s publications have appeared in the Harvard Human Rights Journal, Yale Journal of International Affairs, Georgetown Journal of International Law, and Human Rights Quarterly, and popular media, including The International New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. She is the author of To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa (New York University Press, 2016).
In recognition of Mgbako’s clinical teaching, writing, and human rights advocacy, she has been honored as one of the New York Law Journal’s Rising Stars, National Law Journal’s Top 40 Lawyers of Color Under 40, Fordham Law School’s Public Interest Faculty Member of the Year, and the Police Reform Organizing Project’s Citizen of the City Award recipient.
Before joining the Fordham law faculty in 2007, Mgbako served as the Harvard Henigson Human Rights Fellow in the West Africa Project of the International Crisis Group, where she focused on justice sector reform in Liberia and political reform in Nigeria, and as the Crowley Fellow in International Human Rights at Fordham Law School, where she co-produced a documentary on the feminization of HIV/AIDS in Malawi.
Mgbako earned her JD from Harvard Law School, where she received the Gary Bellow Public Service Award, and her BA, magna cum laude, from Columbia University.