Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Selling sex in Luganville: Ni-Vanuatu sex workers' experiences of, and limits to claiming their sexual and reproductive health rights in Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

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posted on 2021-11-22, 22:43 authored by Burry, Kate Florence

This thesis is a foundational piece of research into ni-Vanuatu sex workers’ experiences within the sex industry of Luganville, on the northern island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. This research identifies and unpacks ni-Vanuatu sex workers’ limits to claiming their sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), limits which are intricately associated with gender paradigms and hierarchies in Vanuatu.  Those interviewed were male and female sex workers, an ex-sex worker, ‘middle men,’ who manage sexual transactions, a client and an ex-boyfriend of a local sex worker. Discussions focused on the technicalities of Luganville’s sex industry, as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the extent to which sex workers are able to exercise agency during interactions with clients. Thus, this thesis reveals both the intricate workings of the sex industry in Luganville, and the considerable extent to which sex workers are limited in making decisions about their wellbeing, leading to significant accounts of abuse.  The theory of ‘body work’ informs this thesis’ analysis of how ni-Vanuatu sex workers’ bodies are understood as a constitution of their self. This analysis reveals the extent to which sex workers are divested of personhood, thereby limiting their ability to have their rights as persons realised. This thesis also draws on the complex process of, as the author conceptualises, gender and developman in Vanuatu; that is, the ways in which Vanuatu has mingled with, co-opted, and rejected introduced commodities, ways, and beliefs in particularly gendered ways. In this way, this thesis is not only unique in investigating the sex industry in Luganville. This thesis also provides a deep analysis of sex work as a part of gender and developman in Vanuatu, and what that process reveals about sex workers’ agency in particular, and modern configurations of gender in Vanuatu in general.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Stupples, Polly