Criminalizing sexual services robs workers of protection and their human rights


Sally T. Buck | Flickr

Carly Quint

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made an announcement that the NYPD will stop arresting prostitutes for sex work. This work is criminalized, even though people should have the human right to control their own body.

Sex work is defined as adults who exchange consensual sexual services for compensation, like money.

Not only do sex workers face charges for selling sexual services and earning their livings from this work, but they are also often penalized for loitering, which is a non-criminal offense.

Those suspected of loitering with the intent of prostitution are discriminated against solely on their physical appearance, as their gender or what they are wearing could play a part.

Because sex work is not viewed as a “legitimate” profession and those partaking in the work are not eligible for government relief.

The stigma surrounding their profession forces their work underground. This leads to numerous issues for sex workers that could be resolved by legalizing their choice of work.

Violence and abuse will decrease for workers if sex work is decriminalized, according to the Open Society Foundation. The job itself is not violent but casting the work into the shadows offers no support for workers.

The American Civil Liberties Union states that some workers are physically harmed by clients who refuse to follow their conditions for the exchange. However, many workers do not speak up when they experience any wrong doings by clients because they fear being arrested.

Some clients also attempt to bargain prices, which leads to workers not earning what they deserve.

If sex work is decriminalized, sex workers will be able to report these wrong doings. They would be able to receive justice without fear of persecution or discrimination for their type of work.

They can also hold a stronger stand against those who intend to do wrong by them. With clients knowing their inappropriate antics will not go overlooked, they will be less likely to abuse the power they currently hold over the exchange.

Sex workers would also be able to also form communities to discuss what clients pose a threat to them if the work is decriminalized. Offering them an easily accessible network to share valuable information will increase their protection.

Health risks will also decrease with the decriminalization of sex work. Clients sometimes refuse to wear a condom, which can lead to the passing on of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Having access to condoms in the first place was also an issue, due to police officers confiscating
them as a means to harass sex workers.

Condoms would be used as evidence when a criminal case is made against sex workers, forcing workers not to avoid carrying them out of fear. This practice was abandoned in 2014 under the de Blasio administration, but it does not mean that the stigma has changed.

Decriminalizing sex work could only help in keeping workers healthy.
Workers would have the power to enforce the use of condoms in their exchange. Having access to healthcare services could cure them from some illnesses that could possibly come with the job and prevent them from passing those illnesses to others.

This could only benefit sex workers. They would be less afraid and regain their power over their own body and the situations they are in.

Basic human rights are not privileges based upon profession.