Human Rights and Law

Human Rights and Law

PLRI is committed to examining the strengths and weaknesses of international human rights and domestic legal frameworks as they apply to sex work. We aim to evaluate the impact of various international and domestic laws and policies on the human rights of female, male and transgender sex workers and their communities.

Sex workers universally claim that their human rights are abused. In some cases this means exposure to violence and barriers to accessing services, resources and justice. In other cases arbitrary detention, criminal law and lack of access to clean safe places to live and work are cited as human rights issues.

International human rights standards and norms have traditionally constructed sex work as an affront to human dignity and as a result have failed to endow sex workers with the range of rights normally accorded to others unimpeded by occupational or moral status. The conflation of adult female prostitution with trafficking and child abuse that has occurred this decade has lead to the revival of law enforcement in many countries which appears to have lead to human rights abuses.

Questions about what legal and policy approaches can best protect sex workers, clients and the broader society are of great importance to sex worker advocates.  

Resources

  • Proposal to European Parliament recommending the Swedish Model - 2014

    Mary Honeyball, Labour's Spokesperson on the European Parliament's Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee, has been a vocal supporter of anti-sex work legislation and has written a report to the European Parliament recommending the Swedish Model, which criminalises the purchase of sex. In a blog leading up to the discussion Alex Bryce and other prominent service providers in the UK condemn the move and encourage the Parliament to listen to sex workers.

  • Modern Prostitution Reform and the Return of Volitional Consent - 2014

    For decades, prostitution laws in America have focused exclusively on contractual consent: the agreement to exchange sexual services for a fee. Courts and legislatures alike ignored volitional consent, or traditional mens rea, by concentrating on the offer and acceptance of the prostitution agreement. In this way, the law disregarded the actor’s choice to engage in the crime. The de facto strict liability nature of the offense rendered it nearly impossible for prostitutes to successfully raise the defenses of duress and necessity.

  • Modern Prostitution Reform and the Return of Volitional Consent - 2014

    For decades, prostitution laws in America have focused exclusively on contractual consent: the agreement to exchange sexual services for a fee. Courts and legislatures alike ignored volitional consent, or traditional mens rea, by concentrating on the offer and acceptance of the prostitution agreement. In this way, the law disregarded the actor’s choice to engage in the crime. The de facto strict liability nature of the offense rendered it nearly impossible for prostitutes to successfully raise the defenses of duress and necessity.

  • Never Innocent Victims:Street Sex Workers in Canadian Print Media - 2014

    Over the past decade, street sex workers and their families garnered considerable media attention through extensive coverage of disappeared and murdered women in Western Canada. The research presented here examines whether recent media accounts differ from past coverage given that families and friends of disappeared and unaccounted for women inserted themselves into media discussions and circulated alternative readings of their stories.

  • Participation in Prostitution: Associated Outcomes Within Familial Relationships - 2014

    An analysis if different political conceptualisations of sex work.

  • "Custody and Education": Arbitrary Detention for Female Sex Workers in China - 2013

    The Chinese government is arbitrarily detaining sex workers through a flawed government policy purportedly aimed at education and rehabilitation, Asia Catalyst said in a new report released today. The report documents excessive use of force by police in the detention of female sex workers, as well as the women's subsequent incarceration in the little-known "Custody and Education (C&E)" system.

  • Sex Work and Human Rights - 2013

    A useful outline of sex workers rights including the right to health

  • A Regressive Move Which Would Further Stigmatise and Endanger Sex Workers - 2012

    Last week Rhoda Grant MSP and Lord Morrow were invited to speak about their respective proposals to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland and Northern Ireland at an event in the House of Commons tellingly entitled 'Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation: Tackling Demand in the UK'.

    These proposals represent a radical change to the criminal law in this area and, if passed, would have severe consequences for sex workers. They are not supported by public opinion, academic evidence, sex workers themselves or by the majority of those delivering front-line support to sex workers.

  • Common Prostitutes and Ordinary Citizens: Commercial Sex in London, 1885-1960 - 2012
  • Condom Use among Female Commercial Sex Workers in Nevada's Legal Brothels - 2012

    Nevada is the only US state in which commercial sex is legal. Since 1971, counties of fewer than 400000 people
    have been able to elect to legalize brothels. At present, there are 32 legal brothels employing about 300 licensed prostitutes. Licensed brothel sex workers undergo weekly state-mandated medical examinations for gonorrhea, herpes, and venereal warts and monthly blood tests for syphilis. In March 1986, the Nevada Board of Health began requiring a negative initial human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody test and negative monthly tests thereafter as a condition of employment. If a brothel worker or applicant is found to be seropositive, her employment is immediately terminated or denied.

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