Research Ethics and Methods

Research Ethics and Methods

PLRI aims to both incorporate and improve upon traditional qualitative and quantitative research methodologies moving toward innovative, interdisciplinary and participatory frameworks that reflect sex workers priorities and perspectives.

The PLRI strives to develop and embed ways of involving sex workers in the production of knowledge that are ethical and which have greater socio-cultural relevance to sex workers. We plan to make spaces and opportunities for tansformative capacity building, collective thinking, research, strategic knowledge translation and thoughtful advocacy by:

  • Developing innovative and ethical ways of researching sex work
  • Conducting research that is ethical, methodologically sound and theory-driven
  • Publishing and innovatively communicating research findings and analysis of sex work issues
  • Supporting training to increase capacity for high priority, community-based research and its uptake
  • Hosting seminars, conferences and web-based discussion spaces for productive dialogue between scholars, sex workers, policy analysts/makers and advocates



  • Action research with sex workers: Dismantling barriers and building bridges - 2011

    Conventional sex work research has tended to pathologize women in the sex industry by studying them as victims who lack the ability to make informed decisions about their lives and their work. Radical feminist research in particular has been successful in affecting public discourses, policy debates, and research agendas in this regard. While sex workers themselves contradict and critique conventional social science and radical feminist research, rarely are their voices heard and rarely have they been included in research processes.

  • Cellphones useful in research targeting Peru’s sex workers - 2011

    Sex workers, a stigmatized population, are also at risk for a host of sexually transmitted infections. As the marginalized women are typically reluctant to visit health clinics, mobile data collection devices are particularly useful to researchers and health workers dealing with this population.In Peru, outreach teams preventively treat the sex workers for infections with the medication metronidazole, in addition to screening them for chlamydia and other conditions. Metronidazole, however, causes headaches, nausea and abdominal pain in some patients.

  • Draft of new Global Declaration on the Rights of Sex Workers - 2011

     The following is a draft declaration on sex workers rights and introductory article. Thank you very much to those who made inputs. 

    The process  used to develop this was to copy the ICRSE declaration format and cut and paste material from all documents together into the sections then edit them down to about 20% of the length. This means that the document attached comprises sentences and bits of sentences from various documents by sex workers and allies. 

  • Estimates of human immunodeficiency virus incidence among female sex workers in north central Nigeria: implications for HIV clinical trials - 2011

    We estimated the HIV incidence among commercial female sex workers (FSWs) in north central Nigeria using bimodal methodology. Using a cross-sectional study design, a total of 900 active FSWs between the ages of 18 and 35 years were recruited from 52 brothels within Nasarawa State, Nigeria. A rapid test algorithm was used to determine their HIV status. ... Of the 900 FSWs tested, 335 (37.2%) were found to be positive for HIV. Of these, 63 showed evidence of recent infection. .. In addition, 875 (97.2%) of the FSWs readily agreed to participate in HIV clinical trials.

  • Is there such thing as ‘global sex trafficking’? A patchwork tale on useful (mis)understandings - 2011

    This article intends to respond to a recent call  for more innovative studies and methodologies in order to move beyond the current discourse on human trafficking. We do so by describing three ethnographic fragments on the dynamics of (dealing with) sex trafficking within Europe.

  • Making the Case for Laws that Improve Health: A Framework for Public Health Law Research - 2011

     Public health law has received considerable attention in recent years and is assuming the role of an essential field within public health. Public health law research has received less attention. This paper explores the boundaries and promise of public health law research, defined as the scientific study of the relation of law and legal practices to population health. The paper offers a logic model of public health law research and a typology of approaches for studying the effects of law on public health.

  • Sex trafficking in Cambodia: Fabricated numbers versus empirical evidence - 2011

    An article in Crime, Law and Social Change Volume 56, Number 5, 443-46.

  • Structural Violence and Structural Vulnerability Within the Risk Environment: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives for a Social Epidemiology of HIV Risk Among Injection Drug Users and Sex Workers - 2011

    An article in Rethinking Social Epidemiology
    2012, Part 3, 205-230.

    The transmission of HIV is shaped by individual-environment inter­actions. Social epidemiologic approaches thus seek to capture the dynamic and reciprocal relationships of individual-environment interactions in the production and reduction of risk.

  • The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effects - 2011

    This is a very good article that presents a strong case that the criminalisation of clients in Sweden has not been successful in any terms. It contains fascinating statistics about the extent of trafficking in Sweden and illustrates the lack of integrity and rigour of claims that support 'the Swedish Model'.

    It also provides a compelling  case for looking closely at the  true consequences of measures aimed at limiting sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.

  • ‘Who is Helsinki?’ Sex workers advise improving communication for good participatory practice in clinical trials - 2011

    This article looks at the 'premature' closure of trials of anti retoviral medicines for prevention due to communities recognising that the trials were unethical. It recommends how researchers can avoid such problems in the future.


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