Saturday, 21 December 2013

What the New York Times (and France) Got Wrong About Prostitution

The idea that we should treat sex workers as “victims” and not “criminals” sounds right, but it falls short.

Prostitutes wearing masks demonstrate, on May 29, 2013 in Lyon, France, to denounce their working conditions and police repression.


When the Times writes of a “growing consensus” in Europe and the United States over how to best legislate prostitution, they don’t mean a consensus involving the sex workers themselves. Each time laws based on the Swedish model, like the one in France, are proposed, sex workers are among the loudest opponents. In the past few months alone, we've seen protests from sex workers demanding to have their voices heard on sex work laws, demanding voluntary care and services without the threat of arrest or prosecution, and demanding justice from those who target them for violence, including the police, When sex workers protest their victimhood and demand full inclusion in society, we need to start listening.


Supporters defend this law as "decriminalizing the prostitute," but even with it, authorities would still have the power to target sex workers (and those presumed to be sex workers) with local "public order" by-laws, which have been used by law enforcement in France and elsewhere to harass, arrest, or even deport sex workers. (In the United States, police do the same, using city and state laws against "loitering with intent to solicit" sex, or "manifestation" of prostitution.) Such police surveillance is the norm for sex workers worldwide, where it is often accompanied by police violence. Anti-prostitution policing, even that which is supposedly not targeted at sex workers, relies on racial, ethnic, and gender profiling. It reinforces stigma against sex workers. It is how sex workers are made into criminals in the public eye. And it is dangerous for sex workers’ health, which is why the World Health Organization and Human Rights Watch oppose this sort of approach. A 2012 WHO report states that "laws that directly or indirectly criminalize or penalize sex workers, their clients and third parties, and abusive law enforcement practices" undermine HIV prevention efforts and limit sex workers' access to care.


Read On… / Full Article / Author / Source: Melissa Gira Grant at Slate