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Let's discuss SEX WORK

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There are 5 main approaches that governments have taken to sex work. The first approach is full criminalization which is utilized in most of the world including Russia, The States (except Nevada), and most of Africa. It involves criminalization of the buying and selling of sex work and related activities. The concept behind this model is that the fear of getting arrested will stop people from engaging in sex work, as sex work is in most societies seen as inherently wrong.

As accurately pointed out by Juno Mac in her Ted Talk on sex work, criminalization of sex work is a trap, because once sex workers get a criminal record it is extremely difficult for them to get other employment. More importantly, as my friend, former sex worker and author Andrea Werhun describes, with this law in place sex workers cannot report crimes against them because “if we have chil.dren, we may lose them; if we are renters, we may lose our housing; if we are migrant workers, we may be deported; if we have a criminal record, we may be arrested ourselves; if our sex work is a secret, we may be unduly outed.” Having sex work be criminalized puts sex workers at extreme risk. For example in New York and other places that practice criminalization of sex work, having condoms on you can legally be used as evidence that you are selling sex, for.cing sex workers to choose between safe sex and the risk of arrest.

The second way that countries, including the UK, have dealt with sex work is partial criminalization. With this model buying and selling sex is legal, but the surrounding activities including brothel keeping and soliciting on the street are Juno Mac points out that one issue with this model is that sex workers are fo.rced to work alone, as the definition of a brothel is 2 or more people. This, in turn, increases the risk of violence against sex workers.

A third model is the Swedish or Nordic model which is used in Canada and some European countries. In this model it is legal to sell sexual services but it is illegal to buy services. The theory behind this model is that as sex work is viewed as inherently wrong and increasing the risk for clientele will lead to a decrease in demand. As Andrea Werhun points out, this theory completely undermines the autonomy of sex workers to make their own decisions as it implies that ALL sex workers are innocent victims who have been for.ced to provide a sexual service. A less theoretical issue with this model is that people buying sex are unlikely to disclose their name or information to the sex workers, which is often part of the vetting process that helps to protect them. Also, sex workers may be un.willing to report crimes where they have to give their address … may stake out their apartment and arrest their clients.

The fourth model used in Germany, Nevada, and the Netherlands is the legalization of sex work. In this system commercial sex is government regulated and can happen in certain areas under specific conditions. Although upon initial glance this system may seem to support and protect sex workers, it is more complex than that. With legalization, there are elaborate bureaucratic hoops that sex workers have to go through for their work to not be criminalized. Hoops that marginalized populations, including undocumented immigrants, users, and people that engage in sex work because they need money TONIGHT, will have difficulty abiding by.

The final model used in New Zealand decriminalizes sex work. This means that there is no government regulation of sex work. I think of a famous fitting quote by Pierre Trudeau, “There is No Place for the State in the Bedrooms of the Nation.” Basically, with this model sex workers can not be arrested for engaging in sex work or reporting incidents related to sex work and the government doesn’t control sex work with any legal mumbo jumbo.

Since the decriminalization of sex work in New Zealand, sex workers report feeling safer and more comfortable reporting incidents to … they have been hurt or threatened. 96% of street workers feel that the law protects their rights. One sex worker even successfully sued a brothel owner for harassing her, so it seems that overall the law is doing a good job giving sex workers more of a voice and rights.

Instead of just creating laws on sex workers to “protect them” it might be sensible to ask sex workers what they want and how we can protect them and trust that they are experts in their lives and their experiences. In New Zealand 90% of sex workers believe that the decriminalization of sex work made them feel more safe, healthy and protected. As well, there was no increase in human trafficking.

Why are people so against decriminalization? One of the most cited reasons is that if the government leaves sex workers alone, this will lead to an increase human trafficking, which is distinct from sex work because in trafficking the sex workers are for.ced or coerced to engage in sex work without their consent.

written by Niki D, "keeping it real" sex conversationalist



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