Decriminalization is the removal of all administrative and criminal penalties and prohibitions on sex work, including laws pursuing brothel owners and clients. Eliminating sex work criminal prosecution goes hand-in-hand with acknowledging sex work as work and safeguarding the sex workers’ rights via workplace safety and health standards. Decriminalizing sex work permits workers to access financial services such as insurance and bank accounts. It also implies that sex workers are most probable to live without fear of violence, social exclusion, and stigma.
The Best Policy Position in General Terms – Decriminalize Prostitution
Prostitution decriminalization is the best policy position for prostitutes and society since it will protect prostitutes from violence and abuse. According to Freeman (2019), much of the abuse and violence experienced by sex workers is accredited to their being criminalized. Sex workers in the current system do not have the power to safeguard themselves from abuse and violence from clients. Many of them are unwilling to report sexual and physical violence since doing so would disclose their engagement in a criminalized activity. The stories of those who report are mostly dismissed, particularly in situations where police perceive sex workers as deserving of violence. All this would reduce when the activity is decriminalized.
Decriminalization will also increase sex workers’ bargaining power and increase their chances of protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. According to a study conducted by Lutnick and Cohan (2009), the criminalization of sex work increases fear of being arrested by the police. In this regard, most sex workers do not get a chance to have open negotiations with possible customers, like any other business. This would give them a chance to negotiate for all terms and to settle on agreed conditions. This will ensure that they operate in a more free business where they are not oppressed by their clients.
Decriminalization will also help in improving their working condition to ensure health and safety. This will also enable them to organize and address problems facing their business such as sexually transmitted diseases. Sex workers can collectively address workplace risk factors by increasing access to condoms and other STD preventive measures. This can include enhancing access to financial and health services and setting rules that work to promote their safety and health. Sex workers criminalization create fear of negotiation process and visible condom due to making vulnerable to arrest. This discourages the use of condom and put them at high HIV risk. Decriminalization will change the situation, making it easy to negotiate and protect themselves (Refworld.org, n.d.).
Contrary to the belief that decriminalization of prostitution will result in to increase in sex trafficking, jurisdictions that decriminalize prostitution can strengthen and retain criminal prohibition of sexual coercion, prostitution, and trafficking of minors. New Zealand for instance continues to be a position by the Department of States’ Trafficking in Person report by the U.S. in Tier 1 despite having decriminalized sex work in 2003. New Zealand is judged to be among the nations doing the most effective work in preventing human trafficking. Policies and laws that enable or encourage sex workers’ collectivization may also enhance anti-trafficking laws enforcement (Refworld.org, n.d).
The Policy Position the Would Advance the Case of Women’s Equality
Prostitution is only perceived as exploitive and objectifying in a situation where the client feels more superior to the woman offering the service. This is when men can treat sex workers brutally because they cannot complain to anyone about it, and if they complain they will be victimized for engaging in illegal business. Decriminalization of sex work will give sex workers higher bargaining power and ensure that prostitutes are treated better and under agreed business terms. It will also present prostitution as work with operation terms and conditions, bring decency to it. This will protect sex workers from prostitutes’ objectification (Blanchette, Da Silva & Camargo, 2021).
Decriminalization will also play a great role in eliminating prostitution stigma. Prostitutes experience stigma due to negative views of the practice in society. Most of these views are attributed to moral and legal perspectives. According to Mgbako et al. (2013), laws play an essential role in impacting societal attitudes. Criminalization of prostitution brands sex workers as criminals. This negatively influences how society perceives them. If sex workers are criminalized, society frequently believes that their abuse is justified. Consequently, they suffer abuse, discrimination, and stigma from many in the society including banks, police, schools, and health workers among other service providers. While it is hard to eliminate stigmatization due to moral perspective, decriminalization can reduce stigma by changing the community perspective and by helping in organizing the service better to ensure sex workers get good health care and financial services collectively. This will eliminate the need to go looking for doctors who will understand without judging. Decriminalization will also force police to help without having to dismiss sex workers as wishing it on themselves. The law will compel them to help since lack can result in litigation against them. This will at least reduce stigma among institutions sex workers are likely to depend on for help in case of anything.
The American constitution provides the right to liberty. This means women have the liberty to choose what to do with their bodies, as long as they are of the majority age. However, this is impossible with prostitution criminalization. Decriminalization will give women the liberty to choose to practice or not to practice prostitution without fear or coercion (Hrlc.org.au, 2012). The criminalization of prostitution does not prevent or stop the act, it only forces sex workers to conduct themselves in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. This means the perception of women is unlikely to change with the decriminalization of prostitution. Decriminalization will make the business and its area of practice well known such that it is easy to distinguish those who practice it from those who do not practice it. This means decriminalization will hardly ruin general women’s perception in society.
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