Street Corner Secrets challenges widespread notions of sex work in India by examining solicitation in three spaces within the city of Mumbai where sexual commerce may be solicited alongside other income-generating activities. These spaces—brothels, streets, and public day-wage labor markets (nakas)—are seldom placed within the same analytic frame. Focusing on women who had migrated to Mumbai from rural, economically underdeveloped areas within India, Svati P. Shah argues that selling sexual services is one of a number of ways women working as laborers may earn a living, demonstrating that sex work, like day labor, is a part of India's vast informal economy. Here, various means of earning—legitimized or stigmatized, legal or illegal—overlap or exist in close proximity to one another, shaping a narrow field of livelihood options that women navigate daily. In the course of this rich ethnography, Shah discusses policing practices, migrants' access to housing and water, the production of public space, critiques of states and citizenship, and the location of violence within debates on sexual commerce.
Throughout, the book analyzes the role the city plays in the changing contours of sexual commerce in Mumbai, as well as showing the highly contingent ways in which knowledge about sexual commerce and sex work is being constructed. Ultimately, the book maps the silences and secrets that constitute local discourses of sexual commerce on Mumbai's streets.
1. Day Wage Labor and Migration:
Making Ends Meet
2. Sex, Work, and Silence from the Construction
3. Sex Work and the Street
4. Red-Light Districts, Rescue, and Real Estate
Agency, Livelihoods, and Spaces