Archive

Author Archives: Wendy Lyon

Aaron Reeves, Sarah Steele, David Stuckler, Martin McKee, Andrew Amato-Gauci, Jan C Semenza: “National sex work policy and HIV prevalence among sex workers: an ecological regression analysis of 27 European countries”. Lancet HIV 2017; 4: e134–40

Background

Sex workers are disproportionately affected by HIV compared with the general population. Most studies of HIV risk among sex workers have focused on individual-level risk factors, with few studies assessing potential structural determinants of HIV risk. In this Article, we examine whether criminal laws around sex work are associated with HIV prevalence among female sex workers.

Method

We estimate cross-sectional, ecological regression models with data from 27 European countries on HIV prevalence among sex workers from the European Centre for Disease Control; sex-work legislation from the US State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and country-specific legal documents; the rule of law and gross-domestic product per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, from the World Bank; and the prevalence of injecting drug use among sex workers. Although data from two countries include male sex workers, the numbers are so small that the findings here essentially pertain to prevalence in female sex workers.

Findings

Countries that have legalised some aspects of sex work (n=17) have significantly lower HIV prevalence among sex workers than countries that criminalise all aspects of sex work (n=10; β=–2·09, 95% CI −0·80 to −3·37; p=0·003), even after controlling for the level of economic development (β=–1·86; p=0·038) and the proportion of sex workers who are injecting drug users (−1·93; p=0·026). We found that the relation between sex work policy and HIV among sex workers might be partly moderated by the effectiveness and fairness of enforcement, suggesting legalisation of some aspects of sex work could reduce HIV among sex workers to the greatest extent in countries where enforcement is fair and effective.

Interpretation

Our findings suggest that the legalisation of some aspects of sex work might help reduce HIV prevalence in this high-risk group, particularly in countries where the judiciary is effective and fair.

Funding

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Advertisements

Vuolajärvi, N. “Governing in the Name of Caring—the Nordic Model of Prostitution and its Punitive Consequences for Migrants Who Sell Sex” Sex Res Soc Policy (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-018-0338-9

This article examines the so-called “Nordic model” in action. Using feminist argumentation, the model aims to abolish commercial sex by criminalizing the buying of sexual services while not criminalizing the selling, as the aim is to protect, rather than punish, women. Utilizing over 2 years of ethnographic fieldwork and 195 interviews in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, this article argues that in a situation where the majority of people who sell sex in the region are migrants, the regulation of commercial sex has shifted from prostitution to immigration policies, resulting in a double standard in the governance of national and foreign sellers of sexual services. Client criminalization has a minor role in the regulation of commercial sex in the area, and instead, migrants become targets of punitive regulation executed through immigration and third-party laws. Nationals are provided social welfare policies to assist exit from commercial sex such as therapeutic counseling, whereas foreigners are excluded from state services and targeted with punitive measures, like deportations and evictions. My fieldwork reveals a tension between the stated feminist-humanitarian aims of the model, to protect and save women, and the punitivist governance of commercial sex that in practice leads to control, deportations, and women’s conditions becoming more difficult. The article concludes that when examined in action, the Nordic model is a form of humanitarian governance that I call punitivist humanitarianism, or governing in the name of caring.

Biradavolu, Monica Rao and Burris, Scott and George, Annie and Jena, Asima and Blankenship, Kim, Can Sex Workers Regulate Police? Learning from an HIV Prevention Project for Sex Workers in Southern India (February 15, 2010). Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 68, No. 8, pp. 1541-1547, 2009; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-04.

There is evidence that policing practices exacerbate HIV risk, particularly for female sex workers. Interventions in India that mobilize sex workers to seek changes in laws and law enforcement practices have received considerable scholarly attention. Yet, there are few studies on the strategies sex worker advocates use to modify police behavior or the struggles they face in challenging state institutions. This paper draws upon contemporary theories of governance and non-state regulation to analyze the evolving strategies of an HIV prevention non-governmental organization (NGO) and female sex worker community-based organizations (CBOs) to reform police practices in a southern Indian city. Using detailed ethnographic observations of NGO and CBO activities over a two year period, and key informant interviews with various actors in the sex trade, this paper shows how a powerless group of marginalized and stigmatized women were able to leverage the combined forces of community empowerment, collective action and network-based governance to regulate a powerful state actor, and considers the impact of the advocacy strategies on sex worker well-being.

Full text available here.

Bridie Sweetman, “The judicial system and sex work in New Zealand” Women’s Studies Journal, Volume 31 Number 2, December 2017: 61-68

Sex work policy is a highly contentious topic. Various political approaches attempt to repress it, restrict it, or integrate it. This paper canvasses repressive approaches, restrictive approaches and the New Zealand model, which decriminalises sex work. The latter is then examined through a human rights lens, with five specific human rights discussed: the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to safety, the right to respect for private and family life, the right to freedom of association, and the right to health. This is accompanied by an examination of how the New Zealand judiciary have used the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 and other laws to protect and promote the rights, welfare and health and safety of sex workers. The article concludes by expressing a hope that the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 and New Zealand case law can serve as precedent for other jurisdictions when considering sex work law and policy.

Full text available here

Kathryn McGarry, Sharron A FitzGerald: “The politics of injustice: Sex-working women, feminism and criminalizing sex purchase in Ireland”, Criminology & Criminal Justice, First Published November 24, 2017, doi.org/10.1177/1748895817743285

This article interrogates the discursive framing of recent law and policy debates on criminalizing sex purchase in Ireland and the implications this has for sex workers’ political voice. Drawing on Nancy Fraser’s work on the political dimensions of justice, we look at how Irish neo-abolitionists, through their Turn Off the Red Light (TORL) campaign, map and delimit access to political space and consequently misframe, misrecognize and misrepresent the ‘problem’ of sex work and sex-working women. We employ the methodological framework suggested by Carol Bacchi’s What’s the Problem Represented to Be (WPR) approach to explore how TORL campaigners exercise and manage frame-setting in law and policy contexts to deny all ‘other’ voices parity of participation in political space. We argue these misframing strategies reflect meta-political injustices of misrepresentation.

Leigh-Ann Sweeney, Sharron FitzGerald, (2017) “A case for a health promotion framework: the psychosocial experiences of female, migrant sex workers in Ireland”, International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-04-2016-0017

The purpose of this paper is to examine the barriers preventing women in prostitution from accessing co-ordinated health services in the Republic of Ireland. By examining the experiences of migrant women engaged in prostitution, the research contributes to knowledge pertaining to the psychosocial experiences of female sex workers’ access to healthcare.

Full text available here.

Elizabeth Bernstein, “Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Antitrafficking Campaigns,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 36, no. 1 (Autumn 2010): 45-71.

Over the past decade, abolitionist feminist and evangelical Christian activists have directed increasing attention toward the “traffic in women” as a dangerous manifestation of global gender inequalities. Despite renowned disagreements around the politics of sex and gender, these groups have come together to advocate for harsher penalties against traffickers, prostitutes’ customers, and nations deemed to be taking insufficient steps to stem the flow of trafficked women. In this essay, I argue that what has served to unite this coalition of “strange bedfellows” is not simply an underlying commitment to conservative ideals of sexuality, as previous commentators have offered, but an equally significant commitment to carceral paradigms of justice and to militarized humanitarianism as the preeminent mode of engagement by the state. I draw upon my ongoing ethnographic research with feminist and evangelical antitrafficking movement leaders to argue that the alliance that has been so efficacious in framing contemporary antitrafficking politics is the product of two historically unique and intersecting trends: a rightward shift on the part of many mainstream feminists and other secular liberals away from a redistributive model of justice and toward a politics of incarceration, coincident with a leftward sweep on the part of many younger evangelicals toward a globally oriented social justice theology. In the final section of this essay, I consider the resilience of these trends given a newly installed and more progressive Obama administration, positing that they are likely to continue even as the terrain of militarized humanitarian action shifts in accordance with new sets of geopolitical interests.

Full text available here.