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Tag Archives: Criminalization and Police

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One fifth of the Bruges prostitutes in the eighteenth century was prosecuted by the bench of aldermen because their family had requested this. Families called in the help of the court firstly because they were worried about their daughters, wives and sisters and secondly because the sexual reputation of their deviant relatives affected their own lives as well. Families lost their honour because sexual debauchery was a sign of mal education and because it revealed that the family was not able to control the behaviour of its womenfolk. Therefore, prostitutes were, as the eighteenth century synonym seems to indicate, ‘dishonest’ towards their parents. In general, families only went to court when their daughters proved unruly, which is when the families did not succeed in adjusting the dishonest behaviour themselves. When they did go to court, they put great effort in proving ‘good parenthood’ because they had to counterbalance the stigma of dishonesty already affecting them. The bench of aldermen was willing to help honest families with controlling their unruly daughters, partly because the city had a fatherly responsibility over its own citizens. Hence, the Bruges dishonest daughters were imprisoned in the spinning or correction house.
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There is a notable shift toward more repression and criminalization in sex work policies, in Europe and elsewhere. So-called neo-abolitionism reduces sex work to trafficking, with increased policing and persecution as a result. Punitive “demand reduction” strategies are progressively more popular. These developments call for a review of what we know about the effects of punishing and repressive regimes vis-à-vis sex work. From the evidence presented, sex work repression and criminalization are branded as “waterbed politics” that push and shove sex workers around with an overload of controls and regulations that in the end only make things worse. It is illustrated how criminalization and repression make it less likely that commercial sex is worker-controlled, non-abusive, and non-exploitative. Criminalization is seriously at odds with human rights and public health principles. It is concluded that sex work criminalization is barking up the wrong tree because it is fighting sex instead of crime and it is not offering any solution for the structural conditions that sex work (its ugly sides included) is rooted in. Sex work repression travels a dead-end street and holds no promises whatsoever for a better future. To fight poverty and gendered inequalities, the criminal justice system simply is not the right instrument. The reasons for the persistent stigma on sex work as well as for its present revival are considered.

Aminda M. Smith, ‘The Dilemma of Thought Reform: Beijing Reformatories and the Origins of Reeducation through Labor, 1949–1957’, Modern China 39(2) (2013): 203–234. 
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This article explores the efforts of the early People’s Republic of China (PRC) to intern and reform beggars, prostitutes, and other socially marginalized individuals as important precursors to the post-1957 system of Reeducation through Labor. It links a case study of local practice in Beijing to central government discussions about policy formulation to trace a series of co-constituted changes in the practical methods associated with thought reform as well as in the way PRC reeducators perceived the nature of their targets. It argues that Reeducation through Labor, as moniker and practice, was forged through the many contradictions between real idealism and practical reality that were discussed, debated, but never entirely resolved by the earliest PRC reeducators.

The regulation of sex work continues to be a divisive topic in England and internationally. Policies governing the policing of the sex industry in England are continually revised and debated, but are seldom grounded in empirical evidence of sex workers’ experiences. Based on 49 qualitative interviews with sex workers in England, this article finds that indoor sex workers had far more positive experiences with the police than outdoor sex workers. Despite this difference, both indoor and outdoor sex workers perceive their interactions with the police through the lens of their stigmatized status as sex workers and do not expect respectful treatment by the police. This article presents compelling evidence that an enforcement-led approach to policing creates insuperable barriers to the success of protective policing.

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This article uses Jonathan Simon’s concept of ‘governing through crime’ as a framework to argue that the state has framed sex work, and its surrounding problems, as issues of crime. There has been a privileging and proliferation of criminal justice responses to sex work in England and Wales, at the expense of more social or welfare-based responses and at the expense of creating safer environments for sex workers to work. Criminal law is used to manage and control sex work, to reinforce other policies, such as immigration and border control, and to appear to be doing something about the ‘problem’ of sex work without providing rights to sex workers. By framing sex work as an issue of crime, with sex workers being both the perpetrators of crime and the potential victims of exploitative crime, the state is able to legitimise its actions against sex workers, while ignoring the harm done to sex workers by the state.
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Criminologists are increasingly turning their attention to the intersections between immigration and crime control. In this article, we describe and discuss four regulatory practices whereby Norwegian police combine criminal law and immigration law in different ways vis-à-vis migrant women involved in prostitution. These practices target sex workers with exclusionary measures, even though the sale of sex is legal. These regulatory practices illustrate how Norwegian anti-prostitution policies are combined with an anti-trafficking agenda, something which creates a policing regime dependent on extensive forms of surveillance and control over sex workers’ lives and mobility, and on partnerships and networks of governance.

Baratosy, & Wendt. (2017). “Outdated Laws, Outspoken Whores”: Exploring sex work in a criminalised setting. Women’s Studies International Forum, 62, 34-42.

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This article explores the experiences of sex workers living and working in South Australia under laws that criminalise their profession. A qualitative research methodology was used to interview sex workers about their work experiences. It was found that working in a criminalised setting raised particular concerns for sex workers including an erosion of workplace protections, outreach services, access to health service and increased policing. This article argues that criminalising sex work leads to human rights violations, therefore sex work should be decriminalised to ensure workers are protected. The themes from the interviews build qualitative evidence supporting the decriminalisation of sex work. This research has been supported by the Sex Industry Network of South Australia (SIN).

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277539516301273