The Problem Behind Making Sex Work Illegal

The Problem Behind Making Sex Work Illegal

There is no city in the world where you wouldn’t have a sex bar to visit. Still, more than 80% of the world’s countries made sex work illegal. The laws around sex work have been really stirred during the past few years. Namely, Sweden has criminalized sex work 16 years ago, hoping to stop sex trafficking and „save” prostitutes.

There is rarely enough forethought before such legislation. No country actually considers what it’s like to be a sex worker. What dangers prostitutes face and whether or not they actually chose to pursue this line of work or not. They just worry about ethics and sex trafficking. But as Sweden has shown, sex trafficking didn’t go down by one bit. Neither did the number of working prostitutes. Their jobs only got harder.

Even with this in mind, England is currently pushing for a similar legislation. They seek to make the purchase of commercial sex illegal. Not long ago Norway, Canada, and Northern Ireland have followed in the same footsteps. These laws will only make the lives of current sex workers harder, and not better by any means.

Most prostitutes screen their clients before they go out to meet them. This screening process is what keeps them safe, as they are able to confirm the client’s identity. This is what allows them to negotiate safe sex and weed out violent clients. But when sex work is illegal, very few clients are willing to provide personal information. This doesn’t save sex workers or anyone else. It only makes life harder and comes with various other downfalls.

The Irony In Criminalization

Sweden’s approach has shown that an endeavor to criminalize sex work doesn’t get far. It doesn’t stop sex trafficking and neither does it stop the sex industry from flourishing. This is simply because it fails to acknowledge the fact that there is a consistent need for commercial sex. People want it and that won’t go anywhere.

If sex work is legal, prostitutes don’t have to worry about getting arrested and can work more safely. They can negotiate safe sex with their clients and minimalize the dangers of their work. They could also have colleges who look after them, know where they are and who they are meeting with. Having others helping out is a crucial safeguard.

Prostitution is legal in England, but having protection or an organization around it isn’t. It was hard enough for prostitutes as it is, but it might get harder. England currently sees the act of criminalization as a feminist movement. It’s like they are following a trend. Yet there is nothing feminine about criminalizing the purchase of sex. The idea has been around for centuries as a way of liberating women from oppression. In the 19th century, England already did such an act, during which 7415 prostitutes and 165 sex workers got convicted. It didn’t seem like a rescue.

Quick Info: If you want to know what’s happening with the laws regarding England’s sex industry, check out this VICE article:

Other Effects of Criminalization

The negative effects of criminalization run a big circle and affect numerous levels of society. Neither does a country or it’s public benefit from such oppressive regimes. For starters, preventing and treating STDs is much harder for sex workers. Not is it only more likely that they will spread, but the level of healthcare will also drop. Most of the employees in hospitals despise prostitutes when sex work is illegal. Criminalization naturally paints prostitution in the worst possible manner. Which is why sex workers carry a stigma and aren’t treated too well in hospitals. It simply makes their environment „not sex worker-friendly” or not even human-friendly. But STDs aren’t the only health risks they are subjected to. Criminalization would bring about a lot more gender-based violence and rape victims. It somehow drives certain people to treat prostitutes as less than human. Finally, it forever stops the sex industry from actually benefiting the economy.

The mission statement of such legislation is to „save” prostitutes from their line of work. But prostitutes don’t want or need to be saved. In fact, such laws block their way out of the industry. Also, it doesn’t account for the fact that they see their job as their career. Instead, it gets them in and out of prison, driving them further away from getting real jobs once. Hurray for the saviors!


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