Legalization vs. Decriminalization
Itâ€™s essential to know one from the other so we can make demands in all solidarity when we speak to the media, to politicians and fellow citizens.
In countries where sex work has been legalized, the State regulates sex work. For example, sex workers may have to pay special taxes, work exclusively in brothels or certain designated zones, or get a permit (these restrictions can cost a lot for a person who only wants to work part time or when a worker isnâ€™t getting a lot of work). It can also mean that sex workers are obliged to register and pass physical exams that can lead to the workers being quarantined. (Or worse, knowing about the compulsory exams could lead clients to believe that bareback sex is risk-free, which would lead to more clients asking for this dangerous practice and to more pressure on workers.)
Legalizing sex work means that certain forms of the work that used to be illegal become regulated in a specific way, which does not provide sex work with the same status as any other form of work.
Decriminalization means removing the sections that make our work criminal in the eyes of the law from the law itself:
Section 210: keeping or being found in a common bawdy-house.
Section 211: taking or offering to take someone to a common bawdyhouse (a chauffeur or a lift from a friend or partner)
Section 212: procuring someone into becoming a prostitute or living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution.
Section 213: communicating or attempting to communicate with any person in a public place or in any place open to public view for the purpose of engaging in prostitution (solicitation).
This would mean we could no longer be arrested because of the work we do, or because of how we market what we have on offer. Basically, what that means, is that anyone doing any type of sex work would be considered in the same way as any other self-employed worker. She would have the same rights and responsibilities as any other self-employed worker from any other field! We would be protected by the same laws as those regulating and protecting other workers. It would mean sex work and other fields are equal and would help remove stigma from our work.
Many sex worker groups are asking for decriminalization, as it leaves more room for the diversity inherent to sex work; it also means each of us can manage our work the way we see fit.
Show your involvement in the debate: show your solidarity in our demands!