Reasons to oppose criminalization of sex work sex

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Reasons to Oppose Criminalization of Sex WorkSex work and sex trafficking are notsynonymous. Involvement in the sex trade occurs across a constantly shifting spectrum of choice,circumstance, and coercion. Victims of trafficking are at the far end of this spectrum, involved throughforce or coercion.While quantifying the number of persons trafficked into the sex trade is difficult, as we discuss below, we do know that criminalization of sex work increases sex workers’ vulnerability toviolence, exploitation, and trafficking [7]. So, here, we discuss four reasons why health care professionals should oppose the criminalization of sex work. Increased violence. First,criminalizationincreases opportunities for violence that’s de facto unreportable [7]; that is, because the work they do is regarded as criminal activity, sexworkers are easy targets for abuse and exploitation, including trafficking. Fear of arrest and otherconsequences means that those engaged in sex work are less likely to report instances of violence orexploitation, resulting in a “climate of impunity [that] emboldens police, health sector, and non-stategroups to abuse sex workers’ rights” [8]. This is true even for so-called “partial criminalization”frameworks, such as those that penalize only the buyers of sex.Although such a strategy appears at first glance to be grounded in the well-being of sexworkers, implementation often means policing of the areas where sex workers conduct business. This forces those working into more isolated conditions and locations, increasing their physical vulnerability. It disrupts critical safetystrategies and negotiations including harm-reduction techniques—such as the use of condoms—and peer networks [7]. According to a study published in the Lancet, partial criminalization “creates harms similar to those of fullcriminalisation by impeding sex workers’ ability to protect their health and safety, and creating an antagonistic relationship with law enforcement resulting in a climate of impunity” [8]. Erosion of trust. Second, criminalizationundermines trust in support systems, including health care. Fear of judgment, discrimination, lower quality of service, and legal consequences inhibit many from disclosing that they are involved in sex work, regardless of whetherthey are so engaged through choice, circumstance, or coercion [9]. One study of 783 sex workers reported that 70 percent had never disclosed the nature of their work to a health care professional [10]. In a needs assessment of sexworkers who seek clients in public spaces, often referred to as street-based sex work, one woman explained, “I was raped and was afraid to be judged by the hospital and that they’d call the police” [9]. Disrupting the relationshipbetween a health care professional and a sex worker can mean important red flags for exploitation, violence, and trafficking go unreported. Increased vulnerability. Third, involvement in the criminal justice system creates long-

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Term
Spring
Professor
hadassah yisrael
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