Archive

Author Archives: Wendy Lyon

Armstrong, L. (2020). Decriminalisation of sex work in the post-truth era? Strategic storytelling in neo-abolitionist accounts of the New Zealand model. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 174889582091889. doi:10.1177/1748895820918898

In the context of on-going debates regarding sex work laws, in most jurisdictions forms of criminalisation continue to dominate. Despite decades of sex workers calling for the decriminalisation of sex work and collectively organising against repressive laws, decriminalisation remains uncommon. New Zealand was the first full country to decriminalise sex work with the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003, which aimed to improve occupational health and safety. Several empirical studies have documented positive impacts of this framework. However, despite this, neo-abolitionists persistently describe the New Zealand model as a failed approach. This article examines neo-abolitionist knowledge claims regarding the New Zealand model and in doing so unpacks the strategic stories told about this approach, considering the implications for sex work policy making.

Eilís Ward (2019): ‘Killing off’ the (unbearable) sex worker: prostitution law reform in Ireland, Journal of Political Power, DOI:10.1080/2158379X.2019.1669259

This article draws on the work of Jessica Benjamin and of Sarah Ahmed to argue that the adoption of a Sex Purchase Ban (SPB) by the Irish state constituted a form of affective governmentality that was derived from a deep psychic discomfort towards the presence of ‘errant’ female sexuality. The ban, enshrined in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, followed a long campaign by radical feminist activists but also saw, for the first time in Irish history, prosex work activism in the form of sex worker organisation.

 

 

Ellison, Graham & Dhónaill, Ní & Early, Erin. (2019): “A review of the criminalisation of paying for sexual services in Northern Ireland”.

The review, carried out by Queen’s University Belfast, was commissioned by the Department under section 15 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act 2015 which introduced the offence and required a review of its operation after three years.

The review reported on the impact of the legislation on the demand for sexual services, the safety and well-being of sex workers, and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The review reported that, in the period from June 2015 to December 2018, there had been 15 arrests and two convictions for purchasing sex and 31 arrests and two convictions for human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Higher numbers of sex workers advertising online in the post law period were reported, rising from 3,351 to 3,973: an increase of 622. An increase in demand for sexual services was also reported by sex workers in the period following the introduction of the legislation. However, on-street prostitution has declined in comparison to previous research, reducing from an estimate of 20 active on-street sex workers operating in Northern Ireland in 2014 to currently less than ten.

The research reported that it is not possible to say that the change in the law is responsible for any increase in crime against sex workers, but a heightened fear of crime has contributed to a climate whereby sex workers feel further marginalised and stigmatised.

The review concluded that the legislation has had minimal effect on the demand for sexual services; and due to the absence of any evidence that demand had decreased, it was unable to determine how the offence could have impacted on human trafficking.

Full text available here.

Jean Allain, “No Effective Trafficking Definition Exists: Domestic Implementation of the Palermo Protocol”. 7 Alb. Govt. L. Rev. 112 (2014), 111.

This Article considers the overall regime established by the 2000 Palermo Protocol to demonstrate the manner in which the legal order of States. In so doing, and with special reference to the definition of trafficking, it shows the limited ability of States to actually carry out their avowed wish to suppress the trafficking in persons. Because their jurisdiction over what is termed ‘trafficking’ is different, the ability for the origin, transit, and/or destination countries to ‘join-up’ is rendered unworkable by, for instance, extradition treaties that require crimes to be common to both jurisdictions, or the application of extraterritorial jurisdiction when what is deemed a crime in one jurisdiction is not so in another. Thus, in a very short period of time, legislators around the world have created, under the banner of ‘trafficking,’ an international regime which, through its implementation in the domestic sphere, has fractured its potential effectiveness.

Full article available here.

 

Platt L, Grenfell P, Meiksin R, Elmes J, Sherman SG, Sanders T, et al. (2018) Associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies. PLoS Med 15(12): e1002680. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002680

Background

Sex workers are at disproportionate risk of violence and sexual and emotional ill health, harms that have been linked to the criminalisation of sex work. We synthesised evidence on the extent to which sex work laws and policing practices affect sex workers’ safety, health, and access to services, and the pathways through which these effects occur.

Methods and findings

We searched bibliographic databases between 1 January 1990 and 9 May 2018 for qualitative and quantitative research involving sex workers of all genders and terms relating to legislation, police, and health. We operationalised categories of lawful and unlawful police repression of sex workers or their clients, including criminal and administrative penalties. We included quantitative studies that measured associations between policing and outcomes of violence, health, and access to services, and qualitative studies that explored related pathways. We conducted a meta-analysis to estimate the average effect of experiencing sexual/physical violence, HIV or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and condomless sex, among individuals exposed to repressive policing compared to those unexposed. Qualitative studies were synthesised iteratively, inductively, and thematically. We reviewed 40 quantitative and 94 qualitative studies. Repressive policing of sex workers was associated with increased risk of sexual/physical violence from clients or other parties (odds ratio [OR] 2.99, 95% CI 1.96–4.57), HIV/STI (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.60–2.19), and condomless sex (OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.03–1.94). The qualitative synthesis identified diverse forms of police violence and abuses of power, including arbitrary arrest, bribery and extortion, physical and sexual violence, failure to provide access to justice, and forced HIV testing. It showed that in contexts of criminalisation, the threat and enactment of police harassment and arrest of sex workers or their clients displaced sex workers into isolated work locations, disrupting peer support networks and service access, and limiting risk reduction opportunities. It discouraged sex workers from carrying condoms and exacerbated existing inequalities experienced by transgender, migrant, and drug-using sex workers. Evidence from decriminalised settings suggests that sex workers in these settings have greater negotiating power with clients and better access to justice. Quantitative findings were limited by high heterogeneity in the meta-analysis for some outcomes and insufficient data to conduct meta-analyses for others, as well as variable sample size and study quality. Few studies reported whether arrest was related to sex work or another offence, limiting our ability to assess the associations between sex work criminalisation and outcomes relative to other penalties or abuses of police power, and all studies were observational, prohibiting any causal inference. Few studies included trans- and cisgender male sex workers, and little evidence related to emotional health and access to healthcare beyond HIV/STI testing.

Conclusions

Together, the qualitative and quantitative evidence demonstrate the extensive harms associated with criminalisation of sex work, including laws and enforcement targeting the sale and purchase of sex, and activities relating to sex work organisation. There is an urgent need to reform sex-work-related laws and institutional practices so as to reduce harms and barriers to the realisation of health.

Full text available here

Anthony Marcus & Robert Riggs & Amber Horning & Sarah Rivera & Ric Curtis & Efram Thompson. “Is Child to Adult as Victim is to Criminal? Social Policy and Street-Based Sex Work in the USA” Sex Res Soc Policy (2012) 9:153–166DOI 10.1007/s13178-011-0070-1

Longstanding policy debates over how prostitution/sex work should be thought about and responded to have been upended in the USA by a growing tendency to conflate the practice with sex trafficking. US law and social policy have converged most fully on this issue in a movement to eradicate what has come to be known as the commercial sexual exploitation of children. One outcome of this movement has been an expanded focus on prosecuting and imprisoning pimps and other legal adults who support or abet juridical minors involved in the sex trade. This paper will show that the simplistic, one-size-fits-all narrative of the child victim and the adult exploiter inherent in this policy does not reflect the realities of street-based sex work in the USA. After 2 years of ethnographic and social network research in two cities, we find that sex market-involved young people participate in a great diversity of market–facilitation relationships, many of which provide the only or the most crucial foundation for their support networks. A social policy based on a one-dimensional construction of the child victim and the adult exploiter not only endangers these crucial relationships but also disappears the real needs of young people involved in the exchange of sex for money.

Full text available here.

Kate Shannon, Anna-Louise Crago, Stefan D Baral, Linda-Gail Bekker, Deanna Kerrigan, Michele R Decker, Tonia Poteat, Andrea L Wirtz, Brian Weir, Marie-Claude Boily, Jenny Butler, Steffanie A Strathdee, Chris Beyrer, “The global response and unmet actions for HIV and sex workers” Lancet 2018; 392: 698–710

Female, male, and transgender sex workers continue to have disproportionately high burdens of HIV infection in low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries in 2018. 4 years since our Lancet Series on HIV and sex work, our updated analysis of the global HIV burden among female sex workers shows that HIV prevalence is unacceptably high at 10·4% (95% CI 9·5–11·5) and is largely unchanged. Comprehensive epidemiological data on HIV and antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage are scarce, particularly among transgender women. Sustained coverage of treatment is markedly uneven and challenged by lack of progress on stigma and criminalisation, and sustained human rights violations. Although important progress has been made in biomedical interventions with pre-exposure prophylaxis and early ART feasibility and demonstration projects, limited coverage and retention suggest that sustained investment in community and structural interventions is required for sex workers to benefit from the preventive interventions and treatments that other key populations have. Evidence-based progress on full decriminalisation grounded in health and human rights—a key recommendation in our Lancet Series—has stalled, with South Africa a notable exception. Additionally, several countries have rolled back rights to sex workers further. Removal of legal barriers through the decriminalisation of sex work, alongside political and funding investments to support community and structural interventions, is urgently needed to reverse the HIV trajectory and ensure health and human rights for all sex workers.