I am on cloud nine after having just spent the past week in incredible conversations, meetings and lectures by human rights leaders from around the globe who are calling for full human rights for sex workers. I am also leaving the International AIDS Conference with a backpack full of invaluable resources that deepened my knowledge of these issues. So I thought I would offer you some recommended reading! These recently released reports will be useful to those of you interested in the human rights and evidence-based approach to sex work. It’s not exactly light summer reading, but I think you will be glad you took the time to check them out.
What’s on Katrina’s Recommended Reading List?
This report is a must-read. The Global Commission on HIV & the Law was formed by the UN and is made up of 14 very distinguished individuals from around the globe with expertise on health, human rights and the law. I provide a detailed summary of this report in my blog. But I recommend taking the time to read the report, and especially the section on sex workers (starting at p. 36). The Commission provides powerful arguments for full decriminalization and labour rights for sex workers. The Commission also provides important conclusions on the harms caused by laws that criminalize the purchase of sexual services and government policies that conflate consensual adult sex work with trafficking of people.
This report documents how police in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and San Francisco are confiscating condoms from sex workers and transgender women, thereby undermining their health and safety. The practice creates circumstances where sex workers and transgender women are reluctant to carry condoms for fear of arrest, and places them at risk of HIV and other STDs.
This is a great report if you are looking for ten succinct arguments for promoting health and human rights for sex workers through the decriminalization of adult sex work.
4.The Sex Industry in New South Wales: A report to the NSW Ministry of Health (The Kirby Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales)
This report was written by leading international authorities on the public health and legal aspects of sex work. It looks at health and welfare outcomes for sex workers in three Australian cities that each have a different legal frameworks relating to adult sex work. 1. Perth, where most forms of commercial sex are illegal. 2. Sydney, where adult sex work is largely decriminalized. 3. Melbourne, where brothels and individual sex workers must be licensed (unlicensed brothels or sex workers in Melbourne remain criminalized). The report makes a number of very interesting observations and recommendations, including that the decriminalization of adult sex work (as seen in Sydney, NSW) improved human rights, removed police corruption, saved criminal justice system resources, and enhanced the surveillance, health promotion, and safety of the sex industry. In this decriminalized context, the sex industry did not increased in size or visibility. This is a very important report for Canadian law and policy-makers who are considering the question of how sex work will be regulated in Canada in the event that the criminal laws are struck down.
5.The Swedish Law to Criminalize Clients: A Failed Experiment in Social Engineering (Program on Human Trafficking and Forced Labor Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law)
This report is just 14-pages long, but that is all it takes for Ann Jordan to provide a comprehensive review of the evidence from Sweden and conclude that the laws in that country (which criminalize the purchase of sexual services, while decriminalizing the sale of sex) are a complete failure. Contrary to the goals of Sweden’s laws, this legal framework has not reduced the number of sex workers, has not reduced trafficking into prostitution and has not impacted public opinion. Instead, these laws have increased violence against sex workers, limited the willingness of male clients to assist the authorities in trafficking and abuse cases, increased stigma against sex workers, increased police harassment and been detrimental to sex worker’s health. Need we say more?