Sex work, migration and agency: Design


This project will conduct semi-structured interviews with women sex workers in Melbourne, Australia and Vancouver, Canada that are legally recognised, self-identify or often assumed to be im/migrants.

Ethical priorities

Approval from the Monash University Standing Committee on Ethics in Research Involving Humans has been obtained for this research. Key ethical considerations for this research involve procedures for informed consent and the protection of confidentiality. All information will be de-identified (e.g. workers’ personal details, workers’ locations). The researcher will not disclose knowledge of any participants in any non-research or non-workplace settings. The researcher will not disclose interviewees’ participation to sex workers’ colleagues (e.g. other workers, owners, etc.). Any participant who wishes will be able to request copies of transcripts and publications. Participants will also be asked to notify the researcher if they would like any disguise or re-frame any other personal information, e.g. identifying broadly as ‘Asian’ rather than identifying a more specific and identifiable ethnicity. In Canada, researcher-participant confidentiality is protected by the Wigmore Criteria, which states that any information gained because of the expectation of confidentiality is protected under law; the documentation for Canadian interviews is tailored to this legal framework.[1]

Community engagement

Given the past exploitation of marginalized communities by researchers, it is important to build relationships and trust within communities and to demonstrate commitment to sex workers’ rights. This project includes seeking opportunities to contribute to sex worker and migrant rights efforts, disseminating findings in an accessible and relevant matter to respondents and other stakeholders, and seeking opportunities to channel research findings into action that benefit im/migrant women in sex work.

In Vancouver, I am an acting Board Member of the Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network (SWAN), which assists immigrant and migrant women in sex work. In Melbourne, my community engagement has included conducting an organisational evaluation of a brothel outreach pilot project by Inner South Community Health Services. This has provided a valuable opportunity to engage with RHED (a sex worker support organisation) on ongoing issues affecting sex workers in Melbourne, and ethics in sex work research.

[1] Palys, T., & Lowman, J. (2002). Anticipating law: Research methods, ethics and the law of privilege. Sociological Methodology, 32, 1-17.