A Look At Sex Work Laws Around The World

Attitudes on sex work vary massively. Some people see it as immoral, while others understand that sex work is work. The changing attitudes around the world mean that the sex work laws are different from country to country, and wrapping your head around them can be a challenge.

World map with push pins. Concept.

If you want to know more about the sex industry and how the sex work laws vary, this is the blog for you. I take a look at the most common legal frameworks on the sex industry and the consequences that they have for sex workers.

The Press For Progress

Last Thursday was International Women’s Day, and we posted a blog about Jayde Fleming, giving you the chance to learn a little more about the lives of escorts. Jayde gave us an interesting insight into the sex industry and the press for progress.

The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe also highlighted the need to press for progress for sex workers, showing just how the changes in legislation around the world can potentially make being a sex worker more dangerous.

All of the sex work laws have consequences for those trying to just do their job, and they wanted to highlight just what these consequences might be in time for International Women’s Day. Sex workers tend to get forgotten on this day, and so it was important to highlight that the press for progress needs to include the sex industry.

The Nordic Model

The Nordic model is something that you will be familiar with, whether you live in Ireland or Northern Ireland. This law makes the purchasing of sex illegal, while theoretically decriminalising the sex worker. You are free to sell sex, but it is the client who will face the consequences.

It was first brought into Sweden back in 1999. Norway, Iceland, France, Northern Ireland, and Ireland then followed. If you get rid of the demand for sex, the supply will follow, right? At least, this is the hope with the Nordic model.

What really happens, as ICRSE tells us, is that “the volume of sex work has not decreased”. The point out that, in the space of three years, the number of massage parlours in Sweden have tripled. The stigma surrounding sex work, however, increases. Sex workers find that they are actually more at risk, and the industry is pushed further underground.

Legalisation

Often when discussing the way forward for sex work laws, people will confuse decriminalisation and legalisation. They will use the two words interchangeable, swapping them around as they see fit. However, the two are actually very different.

Legalisation of sex work is the law in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, and Hungary. What does legalisation mean? It means that the selling of sex is government-controlled, and so you can only sell it under certain conditions.

These conditions are often incredibly restrictive and strict, as ICRSE points out. They tell us that only a fraction of sex workers and businesses can comply with the rules, and so face fines and punishment as a result. The laws are further restrictive depending on the country. For example, in Turkey, only biological women can sell sex. Trans women and men cannot.

Decriminalisation

If you ask those in the industry what they want in terms of sex work laws, they’ll usually say the same thing: decriminalisation. They want the prostitution-specific laws on sex to be removed. They want their job to be recognised as a job, because sex work is real work. It means that they can have labour rights and be treated the same as you would any other service workers.

New Zealand is currently the only country to have fully decriminalised sex work, but the results are amazing. Despite concerns that many have over decriminalisation, New Zealand has reported that there has been no increase in sex workers or trafficked victims. Not only that, but 90% felt the new model improve access to health and safety and their ability to enforce labour rights. In other words, they feel like workers, just like everyone else.

Many more report getting regular check-ups and feeling able to reveal their job to their doctor. Plenty also said that the attitudes of the police seemed to have changed, and that it is simpler to refuse a client that they don’t wish to see.

Is decriminalisation the way forward?

Sex work laws change massively around the world, so those we have spoken about above aren’t all of them. Many have completely criminalised sex work. Some say it is acceptable as long as you are an indoor sex worker on your own.

Many sex worker-led organisations are calling for the decriminalisation of the industry. You might remember a few years ago when Amnesty International called for the decriminalisation of sex work, as they felt that the currently laws make sex workers unsafe.

They stated that the “laws on sex work should focus on protecting people from exploitation and abuse, rather than trying to ban all sex work and penalize sex workers”. Sex work is work, just like any other job, and it is about time that the sex work laws changed to reflect that.

Lara Mills
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Lara Mills

Lara Mills is a writer who has four years of sex industry expertise behind her. Since she entered the adult industry, she has worked on the Escort Advertising forums, before moving into her current role three years ago.

Since then she has gained a fine reputation with her blogs on sex advice, sexual health and amusing news stories from around the globe. She is also a campaigner for the rights of sex workers from all over the world.

In her spare time, Lara keeps herself active by going running, and is something of a film buff. She also loves to go travelling.
Lara Mills
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