This article explores the policy underpinning Sweden’s 1999 ban on purchases of sexual services with a focus on the social and health service sectors and their role vis-à-vis people who sell sex. It argues that the rationale behind the ban is difficult to reconcile with legislation and practices beyond the merit of criminal justice. While an understanding of prostitution as “men’s violence against women” may serve symbolic functions at central policy level, it can hardly guide local implementation without conflicting with core social policy principles. The article concludes that there is a need to address the agency of people who sell sex, since denying or minimizing such agency may be counterproductive to the policy’s own objectives.
Female sex workers (FSWs) are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and encounter socio-economic and health problems, including STIs/HIV, unintended pregnancy and complications from unsafe abortion, stigma, violence, and drug addiction. Reducing risks associated with sex work requires an understanding of the social and cultural context in which sex workers live and work. This study aimed to explore the working environment and perceived risks among FSWs in Savannakhet province in Laos.
Five focus group discussions (FGDs) and seven interviews were conducted with FSWs in Kaysone Phomvihan district in Laos. Latent content analysis was used to analyze the transcribed text.
The results revealed that the FSWs were aware of risks but they also talked about benefits related to their work. The risks were grouped into six categories: STIs/HIV, unintended pregnancy, stigma, violence, being cheated, and social and economic insecurity. The reported benefits were financial security, fulfilling social obligations, and sexual pleasure. The FSWs reported using a number of strategies to reduce risks and increase benefits.
The desire to be self-sufficient and earn as much money as possible put the FSWs in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations. Fear of financial insecurity, obligations to support one’s family and the need to secure the future influenced FSWs’ decisions to have safe or unsafe sex. The FSWs were, however, not only victims. They also had some control over their lives and working environment, with most viewing their work as an easy and good way of earning money.
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Activists for sex worker rights in South Africa are leading a sophisticated national campaign to decriminalize sex work. This Article serves as an act of solidarity with these activists’ continued efforts to fight for and realize sex workers’ human rights by examining the negative impact that criminalizing prostitution has on sex workers’ rights and presenting evidence-based arguments to show that South Africa should enact legislation to fully decriminalize sex work. South African sex workers’ real-life experiences with violence, police abuse, and lack of access to health care and the justice system, highlighted through interviews conducted by the authors during fieldwork in South Africa in November 2011, are included in this Article as testimony to the human rights violations caused by the criminalization of sex work.
Part I demonstrates how the legal frameworks of criminalization, partial criminalization, and legalization and regulation of sex work are costly, ineffective, and harmful approaches to sex work. Part II presents evidence from New Zealand, the only country to fully decriminalize sex work, to show the positive impact decriminalization has had on the lives and rights of sex workers. The experience of New Zealand suggests that making sex work legal through decriminalization has a positive impact on violence against sex workers, does not result in an increase in trafficking into forced prostitution or youth in the sex trade, and has no influence on the level of demand for sex work.
Part III advocates for the decriminalization of sex work in South Africa as the only legal regime that will uphold sex workers’ rights. Finally, Part IV demonstrates how decriminalizing sex work will fulfill South Africa’s constitutional and human rights commitments by promoting sex workers’ rights to free choice of work, association, access to health care, security of the person, and human dignity.
The human rights abuse of sex workers in South Africa is alarming and demands immediate attention. Seven out of 10 sex workers who approached the WLC to report a violation had experienced some form of abuse by the police. Sex workers experience violence during arrest by police officers who routinely beat them, pepper spray them and sexually assault them.
This report draws on the views and voices of more than 300 sex workers in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Limpopo, all of whom approached the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) for information on their rights or legal assistance between September 2009 and July 2011.
Rachel Lovell and Ann Jordan, “Do John Schools Really Decrease Recidivism? A methodological critique of an evaluation of the San Francisco First Offender Prostitution Program”. Published online, July 2012
A growing number of governments are creating “john schools” in the belief that providing men with information about prostitution will stop them from buying sex, which will in turn stop prostitution and trafficking. John schools typically offer men arrested for soliciting paid sex the opportunity (for a fee) to attend lectures by health experts, law enforcement and former sex workers in exchange for cleared arrest records if they are not re-arrested within a certain period of time. A 2008 examination of the San Francisco john school, “Final Report on the Evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program,” claims to be the first study to prove that attending a john school leads to a lower rate of recidivism or re-arrest (Shively et al.). Despite its claims, the report offers no reliable evidence that the john school classes reduce the rate of re-arrests.
This paper analyzes the methodology and data used in the San Francisco study and concludes that serious flaws in the research design led the researchers to claim a large drop in re-arrest rates that, in fact, occurred before the john school was implemented.
Over the past two decades, human trafficking has come to be seen as a growing threat, and transnational advocacy networks opposed to human trafficking have succeeded in establishing trafficking as a pressing political problem. The meaning of human trafficking, however, remains an object of significant–and heated–contestation among transnational actors with opposing perspectives on prostitution, the appropriate balance between law enforcement and human rights protection, and migration. The outcomes of disputes over meaning are highly significant. Anti-trafficking discourses establish regimes of knowledge that set boundaries for how scholars, activists, legislators, and citizens conceive of human trafficking–they establish what trafficking is and who counts as trafficked, and create narratives that explain how trafficking has become a problem and what should be done to fix it. In this dissertation I conduct a genealogical discourse analysis of anti-trafficking advocacy, policy, and scholarship in the United States from the late 1970s to 2000, looking in particular at feminist and religious abolitionist advocacy networks, and the role they play in the creation of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. I argue that “human trafficking” is better understood as a contested concept rather than as an objectively given problem. The meaning of trafficking is constructed rather than inherent, and inseparable from the political context through which it is produced.
INDOORS Project (Veronica Munk, ed.), “Pictures of a Reality: Sex workers talk about their life and work experiences within the indoor sex work setting in nine European cities”. Autres Regards, Marseille, October 2012.
“The aim of this book is to dismantle the idea that sex work is a uniform universe where sex workers are part of one and the same group.
This exhibition presents sex workers in their entire complex human dimension, which is composed of all sorts of opinions on the same subject, of joy and fear over their work, of happiness and doubts regarding their lives.
These are, then, the main objectives of Pictures of a Reality: to show the diversity within the sex work context, the multiplicity of its population, but also to dismantle the idea of victimisation of sex workers, demonstrating that not all sex workers were deceived or threatened, but that the world of prostitution is composed of people of all genders who are conscious of their choice. Even if it is not the best choice for some of them, it is a concrete labour alternative at a given moment in their lives.
The idea behind this book is to show that sex work is a reality, part of society, of any society, independently of whether or not that society recognises it as a matter of fact. This recognition process depends on the level of the moral and/or political discussion taking place in a given society, regarding not only sex work itself, but also topics such as migration and the labour market.
Pictures of a Reality was developed as an instrument against stigma, discrimination and clichés, as a tool to break taboos regarding sex work, sex workers, and the indoor prostitution setting in Europe. This was achieved because, for a change, sex workers were the ones talking about themselves and their environment, without ‘taboos’ or distortion. They were the ones to show us the reality: their reality.
Reality has, however, multiple faces, as individuals will have different perceptions of any given situation. Therefore, to show a wider dimension of this reality, to contrast these perceptions, the book also presents the opinion of ‘other’ professionals, persons who are directly or indirectly involved with sex workers.
Sex workers’ declarations are there to reduce and deconstruct myths about them, by painting a picture of what they really are. However, through all the differences, one aspect is common to all sex workers in all nine European cities: their demand for rights and respect.”
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