As a worker in any profession, safety is paramount, so laws and regulations are in place to ensure that people are safeguarded. However, there is no protection for sex workers, and they are stigmatized, marginalized, and exploited as a result. As a result, on International Sex Workers Day, June 2, we examine the issues and challenges that sex workers face.
The concept behind International Sex Workers Day is to honor and recognize sex workers and their often abused working circumstances. It commemorates the day, June 2, 1975, when more than a hundred prostitutes occupied the Saint-Nizier church in Lyon to raise attention to their horrible working circumstances. Nothing has changed for them in their fight to decriminalize and de-stigmatize sex labor after all these years.
Discrimination from health care providers, Police brutality, other service providers, and prejudice from communities were the main challenges that sex workers encountered. According to her, she has witnessed and seen firsthand police aggression and discrimination, including the confiscation of condoms and necessary prescriptions such as ARVS when conducting arrests. Police abuse was also common, with sex workers being forced to have intercourse with officers without condoms and any money found on them being taken.
Discrimination was another big issue for sex workers. It was quite difficult for a sex worker to go to a clinic and tell the doctors and nurses that they worked in the sex industry. Many people, including doctors and nurses, have been humiliated and ridiculed by healthcare workers. Discrimination in the neighborhood was also rampant, with many workers fearing ostracism from neighbors and even violence when their homes were removed.
Sex workers are frequently subjected to a variety of abuses, ranging from physical to mental assaults. Clients, their family members, society, and even people sworn to defend the law would harass them. Nobody would come to their help if they were attacked since they are not thought significant enough in addition to not having legal protection.
As previously said, a sex worker who works in a dangerous area is likely to be assaulted and attacked. However, most of them do not have access to clean and safe housing since owners and society refuse them outright. Because most people enter the profession owing to a lack of funds, they set up business in seedy areas, and their earnings are frequently taken away as bribes or seized from them by the authorities.
The most crucial thing would be to gain access to basic health care, such as HIV/AIDS therapy and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, which they currently lack.
Many sex workers’ organizations have stated that sex work is a contractual agreement in which sexual services are negotiated between consenting adults and that it is past time for it to be decriminalized. Because prostitution is illegal in most countries, sex workers risk being imprisoned, and no one wants to be associated with criminals.
Because sex work is not legal in most countries, a sex worker’s legal rights, including protection from the authorities, are frequently denied. Alternatively, she may be forced to pay the police a significant portion of her wages in exchange for protection. Because most laws are designed to protect males from ‘immoral’ women, a sex worker may be detained, abused, harassed, or even raped by the police.
Why not use the phrase “sex worker” instead of “prostitute”?
The phrase “sex worker” acknowledges that sex work is a form of labor. Prostitution, on the other hand, has criminal and immoral implications. Many people who offer sexual services prefer the label “sex worker” rather than “prostitute,” which contributes to their exclusion from health, legal, and social services.
Why do some people work in the sex industry?
To make a living, sex workers sell sexual services. The great majority of sex workers do sex work because it is their only viable option. Many sex workers are poor and needy, with few alternative possibilities for employment. Others believe that sex work pays more and provides more flexibility than other employment. Some people work in the sex industry to discover and express their sexuality.
Why shouldn’t sex labor be illegal?
Criminalizing sex work jeopardizes the health and safety of sex workers by driving it underground. Everything from criminalizing the sale and acquisition of sexual services to broad prohibitions on sex work management has been criminalized. Criminalization makes it more challenging for sex workers to negotiate terms with customers, collaborate for safety, and carry condoms without fear of being used as evidence of prostitution.
In many circumstances, sex workers describe excessive levels of violence and harassment at work, including from clients, employers, and police. Because sex workers are at risk of jail, further abuse, and revenge if they disclose rights violations, particularly by police, criminalization makes it harder for them to disclose rights abuses. This reinforces shame, violence, and impunity, endangering the health and safety of sex workers.
What’s wrong with regulations that only apply to sex workers’ clients?
Many opponents of sex work recognize the costs that come with criminalizing sex workers and prefer a system that criminalizes customers and third parties, such as managers or brothel owners, but not sex workers. This type of criminalization, known as the “Swedish” or “Nordic” model, aims to reduce the demand for sex labor while portraying sex workers as victims rather than criminals.
This strategy creates a stigma against sex workers, resulting in discrimination in social services, housing, and health care. It also ignores the basic issue of criminalization, which drives sex work underground and pushes sex workers away from safety and services.
Client and third-party criminalization have failed to achieve its intended purpose of eliminating — or even decreasing — sex work. In France, for example, the purchase of sexual services was made illegal in 2016, and a study two years later found that it had a significant impact on sex workers, including a significant decline in living circumstances and increased susceptibility to violence.
Like other professions, sex workers experience a range of emotions regarding their jobs. Some sex workers despise their jobs, but it is their best or only alternative for survival. Some people are unconcerned about their jobs since they provide flexibility or a decent income. Some people enjoy their jobs and find them to be gratifying or enjoyable in general. Whatever sex workers believe about their jobs, they are entitled to occupational health and safety, and human rights.