Sex Work

Cameron Thibos

What is the best strategy for ensuring that women who sell sex are protected? Should the state ban it entirely? Should it allow the sale of sex but not its purchase, as the increasingly widespread 'Nordic' model does? Or decriminalise it altogether? These questions are endlessly repeated, but for sex workers themselves the debate is long over: only decriminalisation increases their safety.

Sex workers and their allies around the world were invited to share their experiences advocating for decriminali-sation on open Democracy. Stories from organisations that used to oppose decriminalising sex work but now support it were also sought out. The goal was to find out what works, what doesn't and how it can be done better.

The response exceeds all expectations. The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective details its sixteen-year dance to make New Zealand the only country in the world to experiment with decriminalisation. Danish NGO The Red Van explains its struggle to practise even harm reduction in an increasingly hostile political environment. While the community non-profit group Women With a Vision opens up about fighting for the rights of Black sex workers in Louisiana.

The founders of the Global Alliance against Traffic in Women explain how repeat interactions with sex workers led them to change their stance on sex work, and a former adviser to the UK's first independent anti-slavery commissioner contemplates what it might take to bring anti-trafficking organisations on board. The English Collective of Prostitutes, meanwhile, makes clear its frustration with having to fight not only conservative forces on the right hut feminists on the left as well.

There's plenty more to come. Please follow open Democracy on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to the mailing list to hear more.

Sex workers and migrants have been organising against exploitation and abuse for a very long time, so any conversation about different strategies should prioritise their expertise and experience.

[Cameron Thibos, Managing Editor, Beyond Trafficking and Slavery]

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Vol. 52, No. 39, Mar 29 - April 4, 2020