Sex workers aren’t always a part of the conversation about police brutality, but they should be. Police regularly target, harass, and assault sex workers or people they think are sex workers, such as trans women of color. The police usually get away with the abuse because sex workers fear being arrested if they report. If we lived in a world that didn’t criminalize sex work, sex workers could better protect themselves and seek justice when they are harmed.

Protecting sex workers from police violence is just one of the reasons we need to decriminalize sex work. It would also help sex workers access health care, lower the risk of violence from clients, reduce mass incarceration, and advance equality in the LGBTQ community, especially for trans women of color, who are often profiled and harassed whether or not we are actually sex workers. In 2020 the call for decriminalization has made progress, but there are still widespread misconceptions about sex work and sex workers that are holding us back. Some even think that decriminalization would harm sex workers. That isn’t true.

Here are five reasons to decriminalize sex work that would protect sex workers, help hold police accountable, and ensure equality for all members of society, including those who choose to make a living based by self-governing their own bodies.

Decriminalization would reduce police violence against sex workers

Police abuse against sex workers is common, but police rarely face consequences for it. That’s partly because sex workers fear being arrested if they come forward to report abuse. Police also take advantage of criminalization by extorting sex workers or coercing them into sexual acts, threatening arrest if they don’t comply. Criminalizing sex work only helps police abuse their power, and get away with it.

If sex work were decriminalized, sex workers would no longer fear arrest if they seek justice, and police would lose their power to use that fear in order to abuse people.

Decriminalization would make sex workers less vulnerable to violence from clients

Like the police, sex workers’ clients can also take advantage of a criminalized environment where sex workers have to risk their own safety to avoid arrest. Clients know they can rob, assault, or even murder a sex worker — and get away with it — because the sex worker does not have access to the same protections from the law.

Sex workers became even more vulnerable to abuse from clients after the passage of SESTA/FOSTA in 2018. The ACLU opposed this law for violating sex workers’ rights and restricting freedom of speech on the internet. SESTA/FOSTA banned many online platforms for sex workers, including client screening services like Redbook, which allowed sex workers to share information about abusive and dangerous customers and build communities to protect themselves. The law also pushed more sex workers offline and into the streets, where they have to work in isolated areas to avoid arrest, and deal with clients without background checks.

Read the full article:

Sex Work is Real Work, and it’s Time to Treat it That Way by Lala B. Holston-Zannell

June 10, 2020