The UN Human Rights Council just published a report from the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women which criticizes demand-based anti-trafficking measures and calls for countries to consider decriminalizing sex work, among other individual-liberty-supporting measures.
The report calls for countries to:
- Consider the potential of decriminalising sex work and practices around it, as a strategy to reduce the opportunities for exploitative labour practices in the sex sector
- Fight discrimination against migrants and women, including by giving trafficked persons and undocumented workers the opportunity to regularise their migration status and access labour and education markets
- Ensure coherence between immigration policies and labour market needs – increase access to fair and legal migration channels for working class migrant workers
- Enforce labour standards, improve working conditions, and allow workers to organise
From the report:
Anti-trafficking discussions on demand have historically been stymied by anti-prostitution efforts to eradicate the sex work sector by criminalising clients, despite protests from sex workers rights groups and growing evidence that such approaches do not work.
When the Swedish criminalized demand, they passed laws which prevent sex workers from working together, recommending each other customers, advertising or working from property they rent or own or even cohabit with a partner.
As a result, sex workers are harassed instead of helped by police, forced to undergo invasive searches and testify against their customers and have to rely more on their pimps to find clients. And the result? No change in supply, no change in demand.
As the New York Times has reported, US Attorneys General are employing the same tactics here.
Under the catchphrase “no demand, no supply,” they advocate increasing criminal penalties against men who buy sex — a move they believe will upend the market that fuels prostitution and sex trafficking.
Unfortunately, the stings and busts in America catch women up as well. First they’re abused by police. One study showed 30% of the abuse abuse sex workers report comes from police. Tales of being beaten and raped before getting arrested are far too common. Then after conviction, the workers are less able to leave sex work due to their criminal records.
So it’s no exaggeration when the report states that “sex workers are negatively impacted by anti-trafficking measures.” Specifically, “The criminalisation of clients has not reduced trafficking or sex work, but has increased sex workers’ vulnerability to violence, harmed HIV responses, and infringed on sex workers’ rights.”
Besides decriminalizing sex work, the report also calls for more sane and helpful immigration laws and policies. Awesome.
Which brings me to, how odd is it that I’m reading a report calling for more open borders and decriminalized sex work from a the United Nations report?
How funny that World Government realizes that you can’t use the state to end demand for anything, including sex work, and that any attempts to do so victimize vulnerable people. As libertarians generally understand this principle, I don’t understand why libertarians aren’t leading the charge for legalizing sex work. Why aren’t we doing what we do for drug legalization, and for the same reasons? Is it because we smoke pot and aren’t embarrassed about it, but don’t partake in selling or purchasing sex so it’s “not our problem?”
People are suffering due to a overinvolved, punitive state legislating economic activity it has no business legislating. For us libertarians THIS IS OUR BUSINESS.
H/T to the Sex Workers Project Twitter account.
Photo by Capitan Giona
This is encouraging. I had assumed the UN favored a simplistic prohibitionist stance on prostitution, but maybe I should review their statements …
Nice blog, by the way. I came here via Bleeding Heart Libertarians.
Awesome. Thanks for the kind words!
Would pros be allowed to advertise and network openly? How would advertising work in this market? I think the UN has delivered a slippery argument. If regulated, like in Sweden, prostitution would still be an underground trade.
Fines for not meeting regs are better than jailtime, so the more legal it gets, the better, I think.
What do you mean by ‘more legal’? Something is either legal, or illegal.
There’s decriminalization, regulation, fees, etc. that vary.
Thanks for clarifying.
Could you help me with something? I posted this blog on FB and I got a few nasty comments. One of them was “Um… Legalized slavery did not stop human trafficking.” I responded by noting that slavery was legal, taxed, and regulated, where sex work is not. How would you respond to such a naive comment?
The analogy just doesn’t work. Sex work isn’t slavery. It’s work. Human trafficking is slavery. They are fundamentally different.
BTW, I got here via Billyrock.
In the Billyrock interview you said that you’ve been writing a lot about the sex trade lately. I live in Seattle, which I understand is an active place for human trafficking. It’s a hot local topic. The topic often enters conversation, and I have a hard time differentiating from sex work and human trafficking–the topics tend to overlap. Do you have any writings that would help me make sense of it?
Here’s a good piece by Maggie McNeill on the topic: http://www.cliterati.co.uk/2013/06/long-spoon/ Basically, trafficking is slavery, work is work. The two are fundamentally different. The confusion is the result of prohibitionists using fighting trafficking for their own ends.
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