IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

“Rights to Stop the Wrong”: Cultural Change and Collective Mobilization—The Case of Kolkata Sex Workers


  • Nandini Gooptu
  • Nandinee Bandyopadhyay


In the past decade-and-a-half, sex workers in Kolkata (India) red-light districts have involved themselves in a STD-HIV health project and, at the same time, formed an autonomous organization to protest against exploitation and to challenge social norms that ostracize them. This paper examines how this marginalized group, who previously saw themselves as socially alienated victims, came to reinvent themselves as social actors, endowed with a sense of collective rights and capacity. The analytical focus is on the transformation of the worldview and self-perception of sex workers, and on the specific aspects of the development intervention that facilitated this transition. The following elements were found to be most significant: (a) the establishment of an egalitarian organizational culture in the health project; (b) the introduction of a dialogic educational programme; and (c) the development of a culture of political activism among sex workers, animated by a notion of their right to protest against injustice and inequality. The study draws attention to the change of attitudes and identity as the key factor propelling the engagement of the socially excluded and the poor in development processes and public action. By analysing this largely neglected theme in development literature, this paper contributes to debates on the question of participation from a hitherto under-explored perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Nandini Gooptu & Nandinee Bandyopadhyay, 2007. "“Rights to Stop the Wrong”: Cultural Change and Collective Mobilization—The Case of Kolkata Sex Workers," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(3), pages 251-272.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:35:y:2007:i:3:p:251-272
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810701514811

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:35:y:2007:i:3:p:251-272. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.