Victims Without a Choice? A Critical View on the Debate About Sex Work in Northern Ireland

Huschke, S. “Victims Without a Choice? A Critical View on the Debate About Sex Work in Northern Ireland” Sex Res Soc Policy (2016). doi:10.1007/s13178-016-0254-9

In this paper, I argue that the implementation of the “Swedish model”—the criminalization of the purchase of sex—in Northern Ireland in 2014 provides an example of a morality-driven policy process in which the actual concerns of sex workers were distorted and dismissed. In the policy debate, sex workers were portrayed as victims who had no choice—a claim passionately refuted by many sex workers. As a result of the narrow focus on “victim vs. free choice,” there has been little room to discuss the actual working conditions of sex workers and the structural constraints that inhibit their freedom and negatively affect their well-being. In this paper, I present the contradictions and conflicts between the personal opinions of Northern Irish policy-makers on one hand and the actual experiences and views of sex workers on the other. By juxtaposing these views, I facilitate a belated conversation between policy-makers and sex workers—a conversation which can inform policy debates in other jurisdictions.

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