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Trafficking in persons has generated increasing global attention in recent decades, largely due to the development of international frameworks, pressure from fundamental feminist and abolitionist groups, and as a reaction to increased migration for labour. International policies on trafficking frequently contain vague or ambiguous language, which can cause harm to sex workers in a number of ways.

This systematic review and meta-analysis, led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), has found that sex workers who have experienced 'regressive policing' (including arrest, extortion and violence from police), are three times more likely to experience sexual or physical violence. The study examines the impacts of criminalisation on sex workers’ safety, health, and access to services, using data from 33 countries. Sex workers' health and safety was found to be at risk not only in countries where sex work was criminalised, but also in Canada, which has introduced the “Nordic model”, where purchasing sex is specifically criminalised.

Societal stigma and punitive legal frameworks often severely impede key populations’ rights to raise families free from interference and discrimination. The experiences of key population groups (gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, and transgender people) are diverse, and are informed by varying levels of criminalisation, stigma and discrimination, and individual factors such as socioeconomic status, gender, race, and health status. This paper explores these challenges, and provides recommendations for policymakers.

NSWP denounces the harassment, arrests and detention of sex workers as part of the recently launched ‘Ujana’ programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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This NSWP Briefing Note provides information about the United States’ recent legislation - The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) -that criminalise online platforms used by sex workers for advertising and information sharing, including for safety purposes. The resource provides details on FOSTA/SESTA and the 'End Banking for Human Traffickers Act', which aims to ‘prevent financial transactions involving the proceeds of severe forms of trafficking'. 

Download this resource: PDF icon U.S.A. FOSTA Legislation, NSWP - 2018

In 2016, France adopted a law criminalising the clients of sex workers. This report focuses on the impact of this new legislation on the health, rights and living conditions of sex workers in the country. 

An 8-page synthesis of this report is available in English above, and the synthesis and full report are available in French on the Médecins du Monde website

A growing number of countries are considering or implementing sex work law reform focusing on ‘ending demand’, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services. This Policy Brief outlines the impact of ‘end demand’ legislation on the human rights of female sex workers, through research and testimony from NSWP members in countries where paying for sex is criminalised. This document explores how these laws not only fail to promote gender equality for women who sell sex, but actively prevent the realisation of their human rights.

This Smart Guide builds on NSWP’s existing toolkit on the 'Nordic model’, and looks at the harms caused to sex workers in countries where the Nordic Model has been introduced. It draws on the experiences of NSWP members, using submissions, in-depth interviews and case studies gathered through a consultation process.

Theme: Human Rights

This resource is a Community Guide to the Policy Brief on the Impact of Criminalisation on Sex Workers’ Vulnerability to HIV and Violence. This guide summarises how criminalisation increases sex workers’ vulnerability to violence and HIV, and makes a series of recommendations towards the full decriminalisation of sex work as an integral step to improving the lives of sex workers. The full Policy Brief is available here

This policy brief examines the impact of laws that criminalise sex work, informed by NSWP members’ submissions to an e-consultation. It examines the impact of criminalisation at three distinct phases: the surveillance and policing of sex workers prior to arrest; arrest and formal involvement of the criminal justice system; and release and return to the community. The paper covers various areas of law and law enforcement practices that disproportionately impact sex workers, including immigration laws, policing of public spaces, anti-LGBTQ laws, HIV criminalisation and religious codes.

Amnesty International has published their research entitled Outlawed and Abused: Criminalizing Sex Work in Papua New Guinea Summary to accompany their Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. While there are no laws directly criminalising sex work in Papua New Guinea, there are laws surrounding sex work that put sex workers at risk of police violence, violence from the community, and violence from clients.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research entitled Outlawed and Abused: Criminalizing Sex Work in Papua New Guinea to accompany their Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. While there are no laws directly criminalising sex work in Papua New Guinea, there are laws surrounding sex work that put sex workers at risk of police violence, violence from the community, and violence from clients.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research entitled Harmfully Isolated: Criminalizing Sex Work in Hong Kong to accompany their Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. Sex work itself is not illegal in Hong Kong, but many activities surrounding sex work are included solicitation, owning or being found in a brothel, and living off the earnings of a sex worker. Amnesty International found that police violate the human rights of sex workers by abusing them, and using their power against them.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research entitled Harmfully Isolated: Criminalizing Sex Work in Hong Kong to accompany their Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. Sex work itself is not illegal in Hong Kong, but many activities surrounding sex work are included solicitation, owning or being found in a brothel, and living off the earnings of a sex worker. Amnesty International found that police violate the human rights of sex workers by abusing them, and using their power against them.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research entitled "What I'm Doing is not a Crime": The Human Cost of Criminalizing Sex Work in the city of Buenos Aires Executive Summary, Argentina to accompany their Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. Although sex work is not a crime in Argentina, sex workers, clients, and third parties are penalised through communication laws and anti-trafficking laws.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research entitled "What I'm Doing is not a Crime": The Human Cost of Criminalizing Sex Work in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina to accompany their Policy on State Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. Although sex work is not a crime in Argentina, sex workers, clients, and third parties are penalised through communication laws and anti-trafficking laws.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research The Human Cost of 'Crushing the Market: Criminalization of Sex Work in Norway Executive Summary to accompany their Policy on State Obligatoins to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. Their research demonstrates that human rights abuses against sex workers in Norway are directly related to the criminalisation of clients and third parties in Norway.

Theme: Human Rights

Amnesty International has published their research The Human Cost of 'Crushing the Market: Criminalization of Sex Work in Norway to accompany their Policy on State Obligatoins to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Human Rights of Sex Workers. Their research demonstrates that human rights abuses against sex workers in Norway are directly related to the criminalisation of clients and third parties in Norway. Amnesty International also found tha sex workers themselves were penalised and criminalised under the "Nordic Model". The resaerch is the result of three weeks of interviews with 54 sex workers in Norway as well as desk research. 

Theme: Human Rights

This ICRSE briefing paper explores the diverse experiences and realities of LGBT sex workers and the intersection of LGBT rights and sex workers’ rights. It also calls upon the LGBT movement to build an alliance with sex workers and their organisations and actively support sex workers’ rights and the decriminalisation of sex work.

Theme: Human Rights

This article discusses sex worker organising in the United States. It's full title is 'United States Organising: It Is Not Okay to De-Legitimise Sex Work Under Guise of Trafficking and End Demand'. It was written by Cris Sardina of the Desiree Alliance, Penelope Saunders of the Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP) and others from local communities in the US. The article was published as part of Research for Sex Work 14: Sex Work is Work. Contents include: