|Prostitution in Oregon Could Become Legal|
|No public policy or law enforcement activity to date has eliminated the supply or demand for adult consensual sex.||The majority of academics in the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere also favour decriminalising sex work.|
Story by Donna Millsap - The Oregon Herald
|Published on Friday June 4, 2021 - 6:13 AM|
However, the proposed change in law will not be considered this session as the deadline for bills in the House Judiciary Committee has expired. So at this point, the idea is just being debated.
"When I started working sex due to a bad economy, I learned firsthand how the current laws hurt people by punishing consensual activities between consenting adults," said Elle Stanger told the Oregonian. Stanger is a Portland writer and sex educator who says she's done "legal and illegal adult entertainment and touch work" since 2005.
"The system sometimes horribly labels consenting adults as criminals or sex offenders," she said. "Please repeal prostitution-related offenses. It would be an historic move to uphold consent and fight sexual exploitation and sex trafficking."
Those who support decriminalizing the oldest profession, remind us that sex work has not eliminating sex trafficking.
"No public policy or law enforcement activity to date has eliminated the supply or demand for adult consensual sex for monetary exchange," said Angela Jones, associate professor of sociology at Farmingdale State College in New York. "Sex work remains one of the few options to make money for a large number of individuals."
House Bill 3088 would repeal the laws of prostitution, some say in essence promoting prostitution, and commercial sexual solicitation.
State Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, is sponsoring the bill. He is a member of the Oregon Sex Workers Human Rights Commission. A hearing on the subject will be held in July on decriminalizing sex work in Oregon.
KATU reports that Barbara Brents, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, talked about human trafficking and how decriminalization of sex work could help.
"Forced coercion sex trafficking is relatively rare, but it's bad when it happens," said Brents. "But the evidence is really clear that arresting sex workers or their clients does not help. In fact, it increases risk and it may push sex workers by choice into a trafficking situation."
The decriminalization of sex work is the removal of criminal penalties for sex work . Sex work, the consensual provision of sexual services for money or goods, is criminalized in most countries. Decriminalization is distinct from legalization .
The decriminalization of sex work is a controversial topic. Advocates of decriminalization argue that removing the criminal sanctions surrounding sex work creates a safer environment for sex workers, and that it helps fight sex trafficking. Opponents of decriminalization argue that it will not prevent trafficking and could put sex workers at greater risk.
Organizations such as UNAIDS, WHO, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNFPA, and the medical journal The Lancet have called on states to decriminalize sex work in the global effort to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic and ensure sex workers' access to health services. Almost all organisations run by sex workers themselves around the world favour the decriminalisation of sex work, and it tends to be their main goal. The majority of academics in the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere also favour decriminalising sex work.
A European Parliament resolution adopted on 26 February 2014, regarding sexual exploitation and prostitution and its impact on gender equality states that, 'decriminalising the sex industry in general and making procuring legal is not a solution to keeping vulnerable women and under-age females safe from violence and exploitation, but has the opposite effect and puts them in danger of a higher level of violence, while at the same time encouraging prostitution markets – and thus the number of women and under-age females suffering abuse – to grow.'
In June 2003, New Zealand became the first country to decriminalize sex work, with the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act. The one remaining criminal law surrounding commercial sexual activities in New Zealand is a requirement to adopt safer sex practices. Despite decriminalisation the industry remains controversial, with some issues remaining.
Legal models of sex work Decriminalization – No criminal penalties for prostitution Legalization – Prostitution legal and regulated Abolitionism – Prostitution is legal, but organized activities such as brothels and pimping are illegal; prostitution is not regulated Neo-abolitionism – Illegal to buy sex and for 3rd party involvement, legal to sell sex Prohibitionism – Prostitution illegal in all aspects Legality varies with local laws
There are a wide variety of legal approaches to regulating prostitution. NGOs, academics, and government agencies typically use five different models to organize the different approaches. Scholars have also used three-fold and four-fold classifications, and terminology may differ between studies. Some may equate the term 'criminalisation' with 'prohibition', while others regard all policies except 'decriminalisation' as a certain degree of criminalisation. Prohibitionism
Hindle et al. stated: 'Prohibitionism seeks to eliminate prostitution by criminalizing all aspects of the prostitution trade. Under this approach, prostitution is seen as a violation of human dignity. Criminal law and effective law enforcement are viewed as critical tools in reducing the number of individuals involved in prostitution.' Kulick stated that prohibitionist models 'criminalise the actual transaction of selling sex.' Scoular noted that those taking a prohibitionist approach believe that the sex trade is a violation of moral beliefs, and seek 'to deter parties from engaging in prostitution by punishing one or, increasingly, both parties.'
Hindle et al. stated: 'Abolitionism is often described as the middle ground between prohibitionism and legalization. Advocates of this approach maintain that even though prostitutes may choose to enter the trade, it is nevertheless immoral. They believe that governments must take the necessary steps to allow prostitution to take place only as long as it does not infringe on public safety and order. Generally, abolitionists call for the criminalization of public solicitation.' Kulick defined abolitionism as 'a legal system that holds that prostitution in itself is not an offence, but the exploitation of the prostitution of others is; thus any third party recruiting, profiting from, or organising prostitutes is penalised.' Neo-abolitionism
Neo-abolitionism, also called the Nordic or Swedish model, is used in Sweden, Norway, France and other countries. While selling sex is not criminalized under this approach, the buying of sex is illegal. Neo-abolitionists claim these models do not punish prostitutes, but instead penalize those who purchase sex from sex workers. This model is criticized for causing sex workers to do their business in areas with less police, which often makes it more dangerous. Legalization
Legalization is also referred to as 'regulationist'. In countries that legalize prostitution, it is no longer prohibited, and there is legislation to control and regulate it. The extent and type of legislation varies from country to country and may be regulated by work permits, licensing or tolerance zones. Decriminalization
Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties for sex work. In countries that decriminalize sex work, sex workers receive the same protection and recognition as workers in other industries. Negative effects of criminalization Health
According to the World Health Organization, sex workers are considered one of the key populations at risk for HIV infection, and sex workers who inject drugs are at even more risk due to unprotected sex, syringe sharing, alcohol or drug dependence, and violence. Stigma, poverty, and exclusion from legal social services have increased their vulnerability to HIV infection. Health risks and transmission of HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections are increased in incidences where condom usage and accessibility is limited or used to identify and criminalize sex workers. Many sex workers are managed by 'gatekeepers' who may be brothel owners, clients, or law enforcement figures, who often dictate condom usage. In Cambodia, a survey showed that 30% of sex workers who refused to put on condoms were sexually coerced. Fear of law enforcement and incarceration also discourages possession of condoms since they provide evidence for officers to prosecute and arrest. Evidence suggests that HIV risk can be sharply reduced when sex workers are able to negotiate safer sex. Decriminalization of sex work decreases the risk of HIV infection by breaking down stigma and increasing access to health services, reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS and STIs.
According to a 2020 study, criminalisation of sex work in one district in East Java, compared to neighbouring districts where sex work was not criminalised, increased the rate of sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers by 58%, made their income after leaving sex work lower on average, and their children more likely to begin working to supplement household income rather than go to school . A 2018 study found that the 2003–2009 decriminalization of indoor prostitution in Rhode Island lead to reduced sexually transmitted infections and fewer rapes . A 2017 study found that the introduction of legal prostitution zones in the Netherlands substantially reduced drug-related crime, sexual abuse and rape . Discrimination and stigma
Sex workers experience significant stigma and discrimination as a result of criminalization. Though they consider sex work a legitimate income-generating activity, sex workers are viewed as immoral, deserving of punishment, and thus excluded from healthcare, education, and housing. Criminalization laws exclude sex workers from health systems that provide access to preventative care such as condoms and regular HIV or STI testing. Human rights abuses
Sex workers, as a population that suffers disproportionately from HIV/AIDS, are often denied many human rights such as the right to freedom from discrimination, equality before the law, the right to life, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. A study conducted in more than 11 countries by Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network concluded that more than 200 sex workers have experienced violence and discrimination. These acts of violence toward sex workers often include abuse, rape, kidnappings, and sexual violence. Sex workers also face extortion and unlawful arrests and detention, which profoundly impact their mental, physical, and social wellbeing. It is difficult for sex workers to seek criminal justice when it is reported that many police officers are partaking in the sexual and violent abuse. In North Macedonia, police sexual assault towards sex workers is particularly high: 82.4 percent of sex workers were assaulted by police in 2007. Criminalization also forces sex workers to work in unsafe settings to avoid police detection which increases their risk of being forced of coerced into sex trafficking. Criminalization laws such as bans on buying, solicitation, and the general organization of sex work perpetuate an unsafe environment for sex workers, provide impunity for abusers, and prevent sex workers from reporting the crime to the police. Poverty
In countries where sex work is a crime, encounters with law enforcement and the judicial system can cause great financial difficulty for sex workers. Frequent arrests and legal fines may accumulate over time, and because a fair share of sex workers come from impoverished backgrounds anyway, the toll can be immense. In Washington D.C., for example, a sex worker's first offense will result in a fine for as much as $500. The financial impact can then magnify over time after an encounter with law enforcement. With a sex work offense on their record, sex workers may complicate acquiring housing. If a sex worker with a criminal record seeks employment in another industry, they may face discrimination or be disallowed from applying. 55% of Black trans sex workers who participated in a 2015 survey reported being unemployed, while 40% of trans sex workers had experienced gender discrimination when seeking employment. Specific populations Male sex workers
Traditionally when someone thought of what it meant to be a sex worker, the first image that would come to mind would be that of a female who sells sex to men, but as people's opinions have begun to change and as homosexuality has become increasingly more socially acceptable, the image that comes to some people's minds had grown to include not just women but also men who sell sex as well. Over the course of the past several decades the demand for male sex work has risen dramatically as people's opinions on not just homosexuality but prostitution as well have begun to change to look at both in a more favorable light. As society's opinions on homosexuality and prostitution have begun to change there has been a subsequent push for the changing of the laws and regulations regarding these matters in some countries, which have helped to increase the demand for male sex work around the world. As the demand for male sex work around the world has increased so has the demand for the decriminalization of sex work. Organizations like the Sex Workers Project, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, and the African Sex Workers Alliance all work internationally to fight for the rights of both male and female sex workers and for the decriminalization of sex work as whole. This just goes to show how much the atmosphere surrounding the decriminalization of sex work has changed in the past several decades as none of the organizations listed above existed before the 1990s.
Before discussing the decriminalization of male sex work, it is important to first get some background on the topic by discussing the history of male sex work. Similarly, to female sex work, there is a long history of discrimination against male sex work, but not for the same reasons as female sex work. Instead, much of the sentiment against male sex workers has come from its association with homosexuality, which for much of history was not socially acceptable. Much of this anti-homosexual sentiment stems from the fact that traditionally the three major Abrahamic religions taught that homosexuality was sinful, citing Leviticus 18:22 where it states, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" as the main reasoning for this belief. As a result, homosexuality was made illegal in many societies, and punishments were put in place for homosexual behavior.
Though many people's opinions about the matter of homosexuality have changed, in some parts of the world this anti-homosexual sentiment still exist, and, in some places, it is even still illegal and punishable by death to be homosexual. For example, in countries like Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Brunei, Qatar, Pakistan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Somalia, and Afghanistan being homosexual is still punishable by death. In other countries it is not punishable by death but is still illegal and is punishable in other ways. There are too many countries to list here where this is the case but punishment in these countries can range, 0–10 years, 10-life, and lashes/corporal punishment. Therefore in many of these countries male sex workers work in unsafe conditions where they run a higher risk of experiencing violence, or sexual abuse to avoid detection by the police who are sometimes the proponents of this violence. Another issue associated with working in these unsafe conditions is the risk of contracting an STD or HIV is much higher.
Despite this in recent times many people's opinions on homosexuality and prostitution have begun to change which has led to a general decrease in the amount of discrimination male sex workers face. As people opinions have changed to look at homosexuality and prostitution more favorably there has been a push in the past several decades for the decriminalization of sex work in general and more specifically male sex work. The success of some of these movement in achieving the decriminalization and in some cases even legalization of sex work has increase the demand for male sex workers worldwide. Even in countries where neither legalization nor even full decriminalization has been achieved, these movements have at least been successful in relaxing the regulations regarding sex work in general and more specifically male sex work. Which as a result of the relaxing of these regulations even where unsuccessful in achieving full decriminalization, there has been a general increase in the demand for sex work and thereby male sex workers. The advent of the internet has also only worked to further increase the demand for male sex work as not only has it allowed male sex workers to connect with their clients more easily, but it has also allowed them to do so more discreetly, which is important in countries where prostitution is still illegal and for clients who want to keep their business private.
There are a number of organizations internationally who fight for the rights of sex workers and the decriminalization of prostitution which just to mention a few include the Sex Workers Project, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, and the African Sex Workers Alliance. These organizations serve as the leaders in the fight for the decriminalization of sex work as they use the power of their numbers to help them influence policy makes. Which leads to the argument for the decriminalization of male sex work. The argument for the decriminalization of male sex work shares many of the same key points as the arguments for the decriminalization of female sex work. With the main argument for the decriminalization of male sex work and sex work in general being that it is in the best interest of the public health to decriminalize sex work, to ensure that sex workers are capable of going through more professional channels to do their work. By allowing sex workers to use more professional channels in their work, we can allow them to more easily access protection, get tested for STIs and HIV, and enforce that their clients wear protection and be tested.
STI's and HIV are major issues in the field of male sex work, with some studies finding that up to 50% of male sex workers tested positive for HIV in some regions, many of whom were completely unaware. The rates of STI's and HIV amongst male sex workers varies wildly based on income level, race, and sexual preference. This a prime example of an area that would become more equitable to male sex workers of all income levels, races, and sexual preferences, if male sex and sex work in general were to be decriminalized and could only improve even further with full legalization. In general though the rates of HIV were highest amongst male sex workers who identified themselves as being gay, and it is suggested that this may be partially the result of a lack of education regarding the need and importance of still using protection when engaging in gay sex. It has also been suggested that male sex workers may be unable to enforce that their clients use condoms due to the risk of experiencing violence for refusing to engage in condom less sex. Both of which would be less of an issue if male sex work and sex work in general were to be decriminalized, as it would allow them to go about their in more professional settings that would greatly reduce the risk of them experiencing violence or contracting STDs and HIV. In conclusion the criminalization of male sex work and sex work in general continues to create issues for public health, as it hinders not just male sex workers but all sex workers from performing their jobs in the safest ways possible. Transgender sex workers
Transgender sex workers experience a disproportionate amount of discrimination and violence, and many activist groups advocate for decriminalization of sex work because it would greatly benefit transgender individuals in the industry. For example, the National Center for Transgender Equality expressed its support for the Amnesty International resolution in support of decriminalizing sex work on the basis of its goal to protect the human rights of workers in the sex industry.
One study of transgender sex workers that examined their reasons for involving themselves in the industry found that many transgender female sex workers experienced worry that they would not be hired by other employers because of their gender identity. Therefore, they sought work in the sex industry because they felt it was their only choice. However, many transgender female sex workers express satisfaction with their occupation because their clients approach them as "real females," and they experience less gender discrimination than they do in their daily lives. Many advocates view this sort of positive experience as evidence supporting the need to decriminalize sex work. In various qualitative studies, interviews with transgender female sex workers revealed their experience with policing and law enforcement, and numerous reported believing that their gender identity combined with their job in the sex industry resulted in discriminatory treatment from law enforcement, including verbal and physical abuse. The criminalizaiton of sex work also imposes a unique risk to transgender sex workers because, if arrested and incarcerated, they experience highly disproportionate levels of physical and sexual violence at the hands of cisgender male prisoners in the facilities where they are required to be housed.
Washtenaw County, Michigan
On 14 January 2021, Prosecutor Eli Savit of Washtenaw County, Michigan County Prosecutor's Office announced his office would no longer prosecute consensual sex work. The change applies to both sex workers and those seeking to buy sex. In their publicly released policy directive, the office outlined the justification for such change. First, they said, criminalizing sex work is antithetical to Constitutional principles of bodily autonomy and personal liberty. They also emphasized that prohibitionist policies generally result in exploitation and noted that criminalization often causes sex workers to operate in more dangerous environments where they are more likely to be victimized. The Prosecutor's Office also mentioned the negative health effects of criminalization, as well as the disproportionate negative effect of prohibition on transgender sex workers and those from racial and ethnic minorities. Finally, they noted that working in the sex industry is often not an indiviudal's first choice, and the criminal charges they potentially face make it more difficult to seek work in other industries. The policy directive makes special mention of the criminality of instances where a client refuses to use a condom despite the sex worker asking and when a buyer does not pay a sex worker with whom they've engaged in sexual activity. The policy specifies that "pimps" still face criminal charges, but the victims of trafficking do not. Washtenaw thus became the first county in the United States to decriminalise sex work, and the first outside Nevada to legally allow sex work, with Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams indicating he wanted to follow Washtena'ws example.