By: Grace Walter
What exactly is sex work? Sex work is when any adult receives money or goods in exchange for, consensual, providing sexual services for another adult. This term is far more correct when referring to someone formally known as a “prostitute.” The term “prostitute” is plagued with stigma, criminality, and immorality. It's important that we use the term “sex work” over “prostitute” as it; 1) recognizes sex work for what it is, work. 2) it correctly encompasses every single form of sexual service. Going on from that I will now tell you why we should in fact fully decriminalize sex work. The major reason is that it gives maximum power to the sex worker. When I talk about power I am referring to having a choice when it comes to clients, whether or not they work under a pimp, being able to finally report rape without fear of getting criminalized, finally having legal power over any client who might do harm, and where or where not they work. We can see that full decriminalization does this for sex workers by tracking one of the only and first places to ever fully decriminalize sex work.
New Zealand in 2003 became the first country to ever fully decriminalize sex work. The PRA of 2003 was the exact form of legislation that made this happen. Since then people have been trying to see the effects of the bill. Even though it is very hard to accurately quantify any effect of a bill like this due to its nature dealing with the sex industry we can still try to see the effects. There were two very important studies done to see how the bill directly affected sex workers. The first one being done by Christchurch School of Medicine. They found by using quantitative and qualitative methods that 90% of sex workers believed that the PRA gave them employment, legal, health, and safety rights. 64% found it easier to refuse clients. 57% said that police attitudes towards sex workers changed for the better. The second study was done by the University of Otago’s School of Medicine. They sampled a large group of sex workers, 772, and found that 60% of them reported feeling more able to refuse clients after the PRA. A whopping 95% said that they felt they had more rights, meaning power, after the PRA.
A real life example of this greater hold of power can be seen in a lawsuit that a sex worker introduced in 2014 in New Zealand against a pimp who she had claimed exploited her. She was able to sue him and even win! This could never happen in a country that criminalizes sex work and most countries that have a partially legal sex work industry. Speaking of ways that criminalization of sex work has failed let's get into the numbers of it. Plos Medicine published a study in which public health researchers reviewed 40 quantitative and 94 qualitative studies about the relationship between laws against sex work and the health and safety of sex workers. They came to the firm conclusion that more criminalization directly resulted in more violence and exploitation for sex workers. The only thing that criminalization of sex work does is put sex workers in extreme danger and let sex trafficking flourish. Now, let's debunk the absolutely most cited critique of decriminalizing sex work. That it increases sex trafficking.
Not only is this unquantifiable as there is absolutely no way in knowing how many people are actually in the sex trafficking trade and or if it was actually voluntary or not. There is absolutely no correct study that has proved FULL decriminalization has lead to the increase of sex trafficking. The only studies that have claimed decriminalization has lead to the influx of sex trafficking are made before 2003, before the PRA which was the first only real full decriminalization legislation, they very much conflate legalization with decriminalization, and they don't ever give real examples how decriminalization has caused the direct increase in sex trafficking. Not only this but a certified expert on human trafficking, Kimberly Mehlman-Orozo, has very openly stated that decriminalization of sex work is necessary to fight trafficking. Her background in the field of human trafficking awareness is incredible and she is a very important voice in the fight for decriminalization. In conclusion, the decriminalization of sex work is something we need to seriously start talking about. Unjust is very much common in the sex industry and just because of its sexual nature does not mean we should look away. These are real people's lives. Their choice of how they make money shouldn't have to put them in extreme danger because it makes people uncomfortable.
It's real, consensual, work.