Why Decriminalize Sex Work?

 

swedish model

The topic of decriminalizing prostitution is tricky. It elicits a spectrum of responses from people based on their beliefs that translate into judgment of those who choose to participate in sex for money. The term sex work extends beyond prostitution to more broadly include the kinds of exchanges of sex-for-money or -goods commerce millions of people around the world are engaged in each day. (For most of this blog I will refer to prostitution but I think it is important to note the range of sexual experiences for sale include, but are not limited to: escorts, exotic dancers, sex surrogates, webcam performers, pornographic film actors, etc..)

Feminist perspectives on sex work tend to be either pro-prohibition (radical) or pro-decriminalization (liberal). Radical feminists believe sex work to be inherently violent.  They believe that the choice to do sex work is merely an illusion of choice.  According to their stance, only abolition will free women from the bondage of this patriarchal work that is a kin to the kind of slavery women have historically experienced. Liberal feminists disagree with radical feminists in that they believe that sex work is a viable choice people can make and that the real crime is the marginalization and stigmatization of those who choose this profession. They contend that harm occurs when the people who choose sex work must operate outside of daylight and decriminalization would positively affect their ability to achieve safe working conditions.

prostitution food label

Though they disagree on the causes, both feminist perspectives agree that sex workers experience considerable harm.  Due to the intimacy of their work the potential for harm is ever-present making sex work distinctly different from other kinds of work.  I believe it is important to take note of the conditions that bring people to perform sex work.  Some perform sex work as a result of negative primary sexual experiences that shape their relationship to intimacy and sex.  Some perform sex work to support their addictions, while millions of young children and teens around the world are trafficked into sex work.  Many transgendered people come to sex work because employment discrimination is rampant and few other work options exists for them. For these groups of people the issue of consent is complicated.  For them, sex work is not a choice, sex work is survival.  Should these workers need help from the police, they face re-victimization. A recent study of female sex workers in San Francisco found that 21% of the women interviewed received money in exchange for sex from a police officer while 14% had been threatened with arrest unless they had sex with an officer.  Power abuse of sex workers is not new, but the ability to gather and disseminate knowledge of these occurrences is relatively new.  Thanks to social media and 24 hour news cycles there is greater spread of news like the cases in Hawaii, OaklandOklahoma, and New York, for example.

So why advocate for decriminalization? Because sex work is still work and those adults who make concerted decisions to enter sex work deserve labor protections. Decriminalization of the industry could de-stigmatize workers and lessen the marginalization of their experiences. The advocacy group Sex Workers Outreach Project  (SWOP) believes that decriminalization of sex work is a fundamental human rights issue. SWOP argues that negative social ideas about the respectability of sex work has allowed for increased criminalization and recidivism, and unanswered violence and death in their community. Speaking for sex workers is another way of marginalizing their experiences, even by well-meaning groups. Excluding sex workers from movements that purport to be about the elimination of violence against sex work, violence about their very bodies, keeps them powerless.  Sex worker art movements have given sex workers platforms to express their views on how their work affects them and the space to turn their personal concerns about the injustices of their work places into political statements.  Their work sparks conversations that lead to normalizing their work and towards addressing the ways that violence functions in sex work, how to truly help victimized workers, and ultimately, how to achieve justice for crimes committed against them.

New Zealand’s Prostitution Reform Act offers an example of what could happen if sex workers were allowed greater agency and controls over sex work. Its passage 14 years ago made New Zealand sex workers able to offer in and out call services and, in making legal prostitution, made illegal the actions of abusive and unpaid clients. Sex workers were able to call police for help and actually receive justice. This increased collaboration with law enforcement has also increased sex workers willingness to assist police in solving crimes against their community, another effect of legitimization of their work. It is still an imperfect system but it allows for the kind of agency, dignity and empowerment consenting sex workers around the world deserve.

Zika and the Politics of Abortion

The Zika outbreak has been a major issue in Africa and Latin America for the last few decades. In 2016, Brazil reported around 2,000 cases every month (during the spring and summer). You may be wondering, what does this have to do with women’s health? One major side effect of the Zika virus is birth defects. Women who carry the virus can give birth to babies with microcephaly.  This birth defect can result in the babies death after the first few years of being born. Essentially, the baby’s brain is unable to full develop while in the womb. So, it could be born with intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and seizures. The baby’s head is often abnormally small as well. In Brazil, 4,000 cases of microcephaly were reported between October of 2015 and January of 2016. zika_map-4tt768.pngUnfortunately, microcephaly can’t be detected until 20 weeks after the fetus has begun development. It is illegal for almost all Women in Latin America and Africa to have abortions, and it is also illegal in many US states to have late-term abortions.

With the continual spread of Zika, awareness of this issue has been raised- especially since the virus has reached parts of the United States.  The goal was to provide women in Latin America and Africa with abortion services, preventing the possibility of giving birth to babies with defects. However, this entire issue could be avoided if people had access to treatment and medication that would help prevent the virus from spreading in the first place. Abortions would no longer be necessary.

It can be hard for women living in small villages in Africa and South America to get access to preventative methods like mosquito nets, repellant, and medication. The Zika virus can be sexually transmitted as well.  Since the virus can be hard to detect, and the symptoms can range from subtle to sometimes non- existent, a woman’s partner may be carrying it without knowing. It could be easily transmitted to her, and could affect the possibility of her having healthy children.

Organizations like UNICEF, the WHO, UNFPA, and CDC are sending doctors and scientists to affected countries in order to help with education, prevention, and treatment of the virus. A “Zika strategic-response plan” was implemented in July of 2016, in order to provide Africa and South America with financial aid. UNFPA is specifically working with governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to supply contraceptives and sexual/reproductive health information and services to those with ZikazuYjbXLuiZYaxlw-800x450-noPad.jpg.

Sadly, it took the virus spreading to the United States to get the attention of these organizations. The virus has been an issue since the 1950’s, but no major support was provided until over 60 years later.

It’s never too late to get involved, and fight for women’s rights to health care and treatment. Want to help? Visit Project hopes website to donate or sign a petition to urge congress to pass Zika Virus Funding.

Gender Violence and Causes of it

 

It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

In 2012, a study conducted in New Delhi found that 92 per cent of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces in their lifetime, and 88 per cent of women reported having experienced some form of verbal sexual harassment (including unwelcome comments of a sexual nature, whistling, leering or making obscene gestures) in their lifetime.

There are many more statistics where that comes from. So, what is Gender Violence? Any act of genderbased violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

_73377287_017715458-1

What can be the causes of thus violence? It can be due to environment, mentality etc.

According to Genderviolence.org, there are many factors that cause someone to be violent. It is not just one cause, there are a combination of factors. A man named Heise created a framework that shows risk factors at four levels; the individual, the relationship, the community and the structural level. It gives someone more of an understanding as to why people are victimized or perpetrators.

Individual factors are biological and personal history factors such as a low level of education, young age, low economic status, and exposure to violence during childhood.

The relationship factors includes level of relationship with peers, intimate partners and family members. family members can pretty much give approval for a man raping a women, making it sound like it is the norm. it is not!

The community factors refers to the tolerance towards gender based violence in schools, workplace or neighborhood. Also, women living in poverty who work or live by themselves are at a higher risk of sexual assault.

Societal factors refer to the cultural and social norms that shape gender roles and the unequal distribution of power between women and men. Violence seemed more prevalent where men have more power making decisions and women do not have easy access to divorce.

So, knowing that there are multiple factors, what can we do to prevent Gender based violence?

We need to bring awareness. Without awareness, it will continue to happen. No one should be victimized. Everyone should have a voice. Because, without a voice the cycle of gender violence will continue and it will be a norm in society which will not help the cause. Don’t give in, speak up!

Citations

Facts and figures: Ending violence against women.” UN Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2017.

“Strengthening Health System Responses to Gender-based Violence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.” 1.3. Causes of gender-based violence | The response to Gender-Based Violence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2017.