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Dangerous women of Hong Kong? Media construction of stigma in female sex workers

Ting Fong, Eleanor Anne Holroyd, William C W Wong.

This study used a cultural model analysis to examine the Hong Kong print media’s social construction of stigma in respect to female sex workers. An analysis was conducted on captions and main headlines of two newspaper (Chinese and English) median in Hong Kong, 2003-2006. A total of 591 articles on sex workers were recruited in the analysis with 422 located from the Ming Pao and 169 articles the SCMP. A total of Sixty seven articles on health issues were identified. In Hong Kong, as in elsewhere, sex workers were commonly labeled as the sources of sexually transmitted diseases and as women who endangered the public safety through socially unacceptable occupations. They were also portrayed as “ugly”, “weak” and “powerless” in the articles identified. We conclude the Hong Kong print media plays a significant role in contributing to the stigmatization of sex workers, heightening health risk and vulnerability. Such social construction of public stigma then in turn, can be argued to contribute to a lessened propensity for female sex workers both seek and engage with formal health services.

Key words: sex workers, stigma, media, Hong Kong

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