Tag Archives: Violence

Sullivan, Barbara, “Rape, Prostitution and Consent”, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology August 2007 vol. 40 no. 2, pp. 127-142.


Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. However, until recently, there were significant barriers to the prosecution of those who raped sex workers. Prostitutes were seen as ‘commonly’ available to men, as always consenting to sex and thus as incapable of being raped. This article examines 51 judgments — from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand — where evidence of prostitution was presented between 1829 and 2004. It demonstrates an important change in the 1980s and 1990s when, for the first time, men began to be prosecuted and convicted for raping sex workers.This change was partly due to rape law reform, but also to feminist activism and broader changes in social attitudes to rape. The article argues that sex workers have recently been ‘re-made’ in law as women vulnerable to rape, as individuals able to give and withhold sexual consent. This development needs to be taken seriously so that law and policy addressed to the sex industry works to enlarge (not reduce or constrain) the making of prostitutes as subjects with consensual capacity. This necessarily involves attention to more legal rights for prostitutes, as workers, and calls into question the conceptualisation of prostitution as always involving rape.

Full article available here. 

“Swept Away”. Abuses against Sex Workers in China, Huma Rights Watch, 2013. 

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In June 2003, for instance, the New Zealand Parliament repealed a series of century-old laws prohibiting soliciting, running brothels, and living off the avails of prostitution.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.

Impacts of the Swedish Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex on Sex Workers (Jay Levy, 2011)

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.