In spring 2016, the human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International took a bold step: It officially endorsed sex work decriminalization as the most effective and humane political response to sex work. The decision was controversial — the summer before the policy paper’s release, a number of prominent feminist activists, including Gloria Steinem, signed an open letter warning the organization that if it supported decriminalization, its reputation would be “severely and irreparably tarnished.”

Yet there is good reason to believe that decades from now, we’ll see this time period as the beginning of the end of a long chapter of oppression, abuse, and the vilification of a highly misunderstood profession.

In many circles, sex work is seen as a social ill. For moralizers, the exchange of sex for money poses a threat to “family values” that emphasize the importance of sex within marriage and promote modesty among women. For some feminists, sex work amplifies the oppression of women, both by presenting female bodies and sexuality as commodities available for sale and through the exploitation of women sex workers, who are presumed to despise their jobs and only do them under duress.

But for many sex workers — in particular, the transgender, nonwhite, and other marginalized sex workers who often find themselves shut out of other employment opportunities — sex work is simply a job, and one that pays well enough to cover their bills while offering a flexible enough structure to accommodate caregiving duties, chronic illness, and other issues that might pose a problem at a typical 9-to-5 office job.

The decriminalization of sex work is not an endorsement of sex trafficking or any exploitation or abuse that sex workers experience on the job. To the contrary, decriminalization merely gives adults the freedom to choose this line of work, and makes it vastly easier for those who are victims of trafficking, or experiencing abuse within the workplace, to seek assistance without fear of being thrown into jail.

 

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Banning sex work will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now by Lux Alptraum

April 3rd, 2019