This 51-page report documents abuses by the police against female sex workers in Beijing, including torture, beatings, physical assaults, arbitrary detentions, and fines, as well as a failure to investigate crimes against sex workers by clients, bosses, and state agents. The report also documents abuses by public health agencies, such as coercive HIV testing, privacy infringements, and mistreatment by health officials.
Over the last 20 years, the governments of various Western nations have significantly changed their approach to managing prostitution and street solicitation. Several have attempted to tackle the problem through revised legislation. Little consensus exists, however, with regard to the most appropriate legislative response; and in various countries, attempts to adopt new laws (whether to enact or dismantle criminal legislation) have met with fierce controversy.
In June 2003, for instance, the New Zealand Parliament repealed a series of century-old laws prohibiting soliciting, running brothels, and living off the avails of prostitution. The private member’s bill passed by a margin of only one vote: 60 to 59, with one abstention. (1) In contrast, France, which licensed brothels during the 19th and early 20th centuries, has recently begun to move towards criminalizing more aspects of the prostitution trade. (2) Read More
Boittin, Margaret (2013): New Perspectives from the Oldest Profession: Abuse and the Legal Consciousness of Sex Workers in China, in: Law & Society Review 47(2), pp 245–278. (Full paper not available)
Although prostitution is illegal, millions of women sell sex in China. In the process, they experience significant abuse and harm at the hands of clients, madams, pimps, the police, and health officials. This article examines the legal consciousness of Chinese sex workers through their interpretations of these abusive experiences. It reveals how they think and talk about them, and how their reactions sometimes translate into concrete actions. My evidence shows that sex workers name abuse as harmful, blame others for it, and occasionally make claims. They also have strong opinions about prostitution policies, and the relationship between these regulations and their experiences of abuse. These findings place scope conditions on previous theories of marginalized people and the law, which suggest that powerless individuals perceive a more peripheral role of the law in their lives. In addition, this evidence enriches our understanding of legal consciousness in China by showing how debates around the concept apply more broadly than previously recognized.
This paper draws on interviews and participant observation undertaken during
research I have conducted in Sweden since 2008. Outcomes of the Swedish
sexköpslagen, the 1999 law criminalising the purchase of sex, were investigated, with
Sweden being the first ever state to adopt such legislation.
Respondents of ongoing research include sex workers, politicians, NGO workers,
spokespeople for lobby and activist groups, police, healthcare providers and social
workers. Relationships have been established with Rose Alliance, Sweden’s only sex
workers rights collective, Stockholm and Malmö prostitution units, LBGT
organisation RFSL, and drug users rights organisations Svenskabrukarföreningen and
RFHL. These drug users rights unions have allied with sex work collective Rose
Alliance, reporting similar experiences with service providers and authoritative
groups, as well as similar alienation, patholigisation and exclusion from political
discourse, debate and evaluation. Additionally, a trip to Norway in a month will
involve an exploration of how the criminalisation of the purchase of sex has impacted
Norwegian sex work.
The paper will start with an examination of how sex work has come to be understood
in Sweden, tying this in with some discursive and legislative history. The main focus
will be a discussion of how discourses and legislation have come to impact service
provision and ideas surrounding harm reduction. The impacts of laws on levels and
spaces of sex work will additionally be discussed. I will not be discussing non-female
sex work or the patholigisation of sex buyers in Sweden, though these are additional
areas of research focus.