The Drayang Girls of Thimphu: sexual network formation, transactional sex and emerging modernities in Bhutan

Citation:

Lorway, Robert, Gampo Dorji, Janet Bradley, B.M. Ramesh, Shajy Isaac, and James Blanchard. 2011. "The Drayang Girls of Thimphu: sexual network formation, transactional sex and emerging modernities in Bhutan." Culture, Health & Sexuality 13 (S2): S293-S308.

Authors: Robert Lorway, Gampo Dorji, Janet Bradley, B.M. Ramesh, Shajy Isaac, James Blanchard

Abstract:

Bhutan’s sustained low HIV prevalence can be attributed to its political commitment to maintain isolation from foreign cultural influence. Recently, rising HIV prevalence has coincided with the increase in human traffic along Bhutan’s borders. The majority of infections, occurring primarily through sexual contact, have appeared in the urban environments that are situated along the main transport routes. This qualitative study explored the sexual networks that form at entertainment venues in the capital city of Thimphu. To more fully understand sexual network formation at theses venues, one must take into account an emerging modernity that reflects a convergence of cultural, economic and political influences emanating from Bhutan’s unique ‘middle-path’ modernisation scheme. The growing appearance of transactional sex in Thimphu not only points to an emergent form of exploitation wrought by larger economic transformations and widening social inequalities; the power inequalities that surround its practice are also significantly exacerbated by the local cultural politics and moral ideologies that arise as Bhutan proceeds along the path towards global capitalism. Discourses of Bhutanese sexual morality articulate with broader political economic transformations to forcefully position village women engaging in transactional sex within a field of power relations that leaves them open to various forms of subjugation.

Keywords: transactional sex, sex work, Bhutan, HIV/AIDS, modernization

Topics: Development, Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Bhutan

Year: 2011

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