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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Nicola J. Smith, “The international political economy of commercial sex” Review of International Political Economy (2011) 18:4, 530-549

The expansion of the global sex industry in recent years has emerged as an important national and international policy concern and has also become the subject of considerable academic interest. Spanning a variety of social science disciplines such as sociology, cultural studies, economics, anthropology and geography, there is now a rich and diverse literature on the political economy of prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking. This scholarship has not only contributed a wealth of empirical data on the scope and nature of the global sex trade but has also generated profound theoretical insights into the structure of power relations on an international scale. As authors such as Andreas, Bhattacharyya and Ryner have argued, the illicit and illegal economy is intimately related to, not separable from, the functioning of the ‘formal’ global economy and yet unprotected workers remain both politically marginalized and economically vulnerable. For Federici, the sex industry – one of the key non-legal forms of revenue aside from the drugs and arms trades – is a ‘paradigmatic case’ for understanding both how the international political economy impacts upon unprotected workers and how their status and interests are represented in contemporary political debates.

It is perhaps surprising, then, that within the field of International Political Economy little attention has been devoted to commercial sex – as a number of feminist scholars have noted. In part, this reflects a continued preoccupation in mainstream IPE with the ‘upper circuits’ of capital relations (trade, financial markets, capital flows) rather than the ‘lower circuits’ (domestic labour, janitorial/custodial work, tourism and sex work). More fundamentally, feminist scholars have pointed to a tendency to discursively position certain types of work on the ‘outside’ rather than the ‘inside’ of globalisation and capitalism – and hence beyond the ‘proper’ analysis of IPE. In particular, as Gillian Youngs notes, mainstream IPE has tended to be underpinned by a number of binaries and oppositions such as state/market, domestic/international, institutional/individual and public/private. Crucially, this has enabled certain forms of labour to, in effect, be written out of the analysis of IPE – including commercial sex, which has been marginalized due to its association with the ‘private’ sphere of sexuality rather than the ‘public’ sphere of work. Feminist scholars have thus called for IPE to focus more on the ‘reproductive economy’ (i.e. the feminised and private realm of emotional, leisure, caring and sexual labour) as opposed to the ‘productive economy’ (i.e. those forms of work associated with primary, secondary and tertiary production). Within this context, the sex industry has emerged as an important case study in a feminist project not only to render women’s lives more visible in IPE but also to re-map the conceptual and empirical terrain of IPE itself.

In this essay I offer a review of recent literature on commercial sex, focusing my discussion on four key books that each place commercial sex centre-stage within the broader analysis of global power relations. While not all situate themselves within (or, indeed, engage explicitly with) IPE as a discipline, each is nevertheless directly concerned with the extent to and ways in which the sex industry reflects and exacerbates the structural hierarchies of global capitalism. However, as I shall outline, the four books nevertheless come from rather different theoretical and normative starting-points and thus offer a variety of competing interpretations of the meanings(s) and practice(s) of commercial sex within a global context. In particular, there is significant debate as to whether the global sexual economy can ever represent a site of resistance to power relations or whether, alternatively, it is where global inequalities are felt most acutely.

Full text of author’s original manuscript available here.