Today, 17th December, is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I have a few moments that I didn’t expect to have spare, and I do not like to let the day go past without at least a short post to acknowledge it, so here’s a few thoughts near the top of my mind on the topic:
The past year has seen yet another attempt to introduce the so-called “Swedish Model” into English law (thankfully, unsuccessful), and a successful attempt to introduce it, ad worse, in Canada. We have had the reality admitted that, despite the rhetoric, the criminalisation of the client is not about ending demand, it is about making life for sex workers sufficiently dangerous that they will choose poverty rather than sex work.
Laws against sex work are laws against sex workers, regardless of the exact form the laws take. They strip away from sex workers the protections that other people take for granted. Laws against the client force sex workers to hide so clients are able to come to them – and, being hidden, they do not enjoy protection from violent clients.
And laws against sex work, regardless of the form those laws take, mark out sex work as lower. Such laws promote the view that a woman who has (lots of) sex (particularly for money) is of lower value and in some way has “brought it on herself” if violence should be perpetrated against her.
Only decriminalisation of sex work allows sex workers the protections they need to live their lives. Only ending stigma will end the violence, but that takes ending the bad laws first. And then, we can hope that there will come a year when there is no need for an International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.