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.  


  • Is Child to Adult as Victim is to Criminal? Social Policy and Street-Based Sex Work in the United States - 2011

    A Working Paper from the Social Networks Research Group.

  • Majority of migrant sex workers ‘not forced or trafficked’. - 2011

    The International Union of Sex Workers warmly welcomes the publication of “Migrant Workers in the UK Sex Industry” by Dr Nick Mai.

    This is the largest ever qualitative research into the experience of migrants selling sexual services in London, and key findings are:
    • The large majority of interviewed migrant workers in the UK sex industry are not forced nor trafficked.

    • Immigration status is by far the single most important factor restricting their ability to exercise their rights in their professional and private lives.

  • Making sex work safer in Switzerland - 2011

    If sex work was treated like any other profession, many of the problems associated with it, including violence, could be easier to tackle according to Eva Büschi, a professor at the School of Social Work of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland. 

  • Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities - 2011

    'Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities'  includes a chapter entitled 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Constructions of Masculinity and Contemporary Understandings of Sex Work' that looks at men as buyers and sellers of sex and desconstructs the myth of the 'pimp'.

  • Myths About Human Trafficking - 2011

    In an article in the Huffington Post US academic Ronald Weitzer provides a clear explanation of why the claims being made about sex trafficking by celebrities, charities, UN and government agencies should not be taken at face value.

  • New Initiative on Sex Work in Botswana - 2011

    A new sex workers initiative in Botswana has included a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) component in their programme.

    Sisonke Botswana, a sex work group currently housed by Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), joined the African Sex Workers Alliance and dedicated a week to the mapping of sex workers rights in Botswana with the aim to forming a coalition which will advance the human health rights of most key population (sex workers, transgender, MSM and drug users).

  • Nongovernmental organisations and sex work in Cambodia: Development perspectives and feminist agendas - 2011

    This project focuses on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Cambodia that deal, either directly or indirectly, with sex work and sex workers. The NGOs outlined in this study have goals ranging from preventing Cambodian women from entering the commercial sex industry to empowering Cambodian sex workers through the formation of sex worker unions.

  • Occupational health and safety among commercial sex workers - 2011

    Review : Ross, Crisp, Månsson and Hawkes have published “Occupational Health and Safety Among Commercial Sex Workers” in the latest ‘online first’ edition of the Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health. At first look the article  appears to be a welcome contribution to efforts to place sex work within the realm of labour and outside what the piece itself terms “moral discourses that ignore, devalue, or condemn commercial sex workers” (page 1). However it also disappoints in fundamental respects. Its contribution to strategies for improving sex worker OHS is limited and the suggestions for legal reform seem to betray the authors’ ambivalence about the existence of the industry itself.

  • Persuading, protesting and exchanging favours: strategies used by Indian sex workers to win local support for their HIV prevention programmes - 2011

    Article in AIDS Care. 2010;22 Suppl 2:1670-8.

  • Phuket Bars, Sex Workers Face Closer Scrutiny in Mass Check - 2011

    Phuket Public Health officials joined about 150 police and local authorities in another crackdown on Patong bars and other venues on and around Soi Bangla last night. Bar staff and sex workers were required to produce documentation. Employees and staff were tested for drugs.

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