Anna-Louise Crago

Study program:
PhD anthropology
Current affiliation:
University of Toronto

Among vulnerable groups victimized by armed conflict, sex workers are the most easily overlooked. Anna-Louise asks whether they could be better protected.

Sex Workers’ Experiences of Armed Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The literature on gendered violence within conflict has primarily focused on sexual violence as perpetrated by an opposing side. A number of accounts complicate such narratives and point to the need to develop a more complex analysis of the gendered, ethnic, and political dimensions of violence against women in war.  But research has yet to examine sex workers’ experiences in particular. Sex workers often have personal and professional relationships that cross ethnic lines; in addition, it is possible that state repression of sex work complicate sex workers’ experiences of violence and interventions against violence.

Anna-Louise’s research uses this vantage point to inquire into broader issues about gendered violence in armed conflict, including gendered state violence; national and transnational responses to gendered violence; and marginalized communities’ responses to violence.

Anna-Louise Crago has spent over a decade as a human rights activist, a service-provider, and a researcher with, and as part of, sex worker and street-involved communities. She has worked for many years with Stella, Montreal’s center by and for sex workers, most recently as the coordinator of services and the legal clinic and medical clinic.  In 2006, Human Rights Watch and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network awarded her and her team members the “AIDS Action Award” for their work. Anna-Louise has also worked for many years on human rights issues for SWAN, a network of 22 groups offering services to sex workers, drug users, and street youth in 19 countries in Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Anna-Louise has researched violence and other human rights violations against sex workers, drug users, and homeless people in over 25 countries in Asia, Africa, South America, North America, and Europe. She coordinated and was the lead author of “Arrest the Violence,” a sex worker-led community research project on police raids and violence against sex workers in 11 countries. Human Rights Watch qualified the project as “groundbreaking research” that “might serve as a catalyst to awaken the broader human rights community.”

Anna-Louise is a co-guest editor of an upcoming issue of The Lancet on HIV and sex work. She participated as an expert in the development of the World Health Organization’s first Guidelines on HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care for Sex Workers in Low and Middle-Income Countries(2012) and in 2011 she addressed the Global Commission on HIV and the Law on the impacts of the criminalization of sex work. She sat on the advisory board of the Open Society Foundations' Sexual Health and Rights Project from 2009 to 2011 and she co-authored a keynote address for the International Aids Conference in Mexico in 2008. Lastly, Anna-Louise obtained a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Concordia University.