Sex Worker Rights and Perspectives


Support for Decriminalisation

The Lancet issues policy of suppport for decriminalization (July 2014)

“With heightened risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, sex workers face substantial barriers in accessing prevention, treatment, and care services, largely because of stigma, discrimination, and criminalisation in the societies in which they live. These social, legal, and economic injustices contribute to their high risk of acquiring HIV. Often driven underground by fear, sex workers encounter or face the direct risk of violence and abuse daily. …This Series of seven papers …calls for the decriminilisation of sex work…”


“We cannot consider sex work the same way we consider trafficking or sexual exploitation which are human rights abuses and crimes…The conflation of consensual sex work and sex trafficking leads to inappropriate responses that fail to assist sex workers and victims of trafficking in realizing their rights. ..We recognize the right of all sex workers to choose their work or leave it and to have access to other employment opportunities.”

Global Commission Report on HIV and The Law (sex worker recommendations only) or full report (July 2012)
“3.2.4 Ensure that the enforcement of anti-human-trafficking laws is carefully targeted to punish those who use force, dishonesty or coercion to procure people into commercial sex, or who abuse migrant sex workers through debt bondage, violence or by deprivation of liberty. Anti-human-trafficking laws must be used to prohibit sexual exploitation and they must not be used against adults involved in consensual sex work.”

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

“…the failure of legal recognition of the sex-work sector results in infringements of the right to health, through the failure to provide safe working conditions, and a lack of recourse to legal remedies for occupational health issues. Additionally, the distinction between sex work and trafficking is considered, in particular with respect to legislation and interventions that, by failing to distinguish between these groups, are increasingly infringing sex workers’ right to health. ” 

Media Reports

Special Prostitution Courts and the Myth of ‘Rescuing’ Sex Workers by Molly Crabapple, Vice (January  2015)

Sex Work is Not Sex Trafficking from American Jewish World Service  (June 2012)

“I’m also struck by how sex trafficking is increasingly conflated with sex work. Clearly, the issues are different: Sex trafficking refers to forced migration of human beings—often minors—for sexual exploitation and coercive labor. Sex work refers to people—women, men and transgender individuals—who sell sex to earn a living. Sex work is work and, more often than not, it’s a job that one chooses in order to support his or her family. But policy makers continue to overlook this distinction and, in doing so, infringe upon sex workers’ rights and fundamental human rights.”

Sex slaves or harassed sex-trade workers? Being ‘rescued’ by police means imprisonment by Vern Smith (August 2000)
Canadian report featuring sex worker organizations perspectives on migration, sex work and trafficking.


Adult Industry Truth Research and surveys of the adult or erotic labor markets in the U.S.

Police, Prostitution and Politics from Norma Jean Almodovar

Emi Koyama’s blogs including War on Terror & War on Trafficking: A Sex Worker Activist Confronts the Anti-Trafficking Movement



Maryland Activists Organize Against SB904, A Misguided Human Trafficking Law

“We, the undersigned, are individuals and organizations who share this concern and believe we can create policy that holds perpetrators of violence accountable without violating the rights of victims and others.”

An Open Letter To Policy and Law Makers from SWOP-Seattle

“We urge that you remove this language and that you recognize a distinction between sexual exploitation and  consensual sexual commerce.  We recommend that you focus the state’s efforts on finding effective means to reduce the serious violation of human rights issues of  sexual exploitation and abuse, and adults subjected to force, fraud, or coercion without compromising the safety of sex workers.”

Mission Statement of Sex Worker Across Borders
This document discusses the sex worker/migrant and labor rights agenda in the context of anti-trafficking policies.(2006-7)

Proposed California Anti-Trafficking Legislation: Details of Sex Worker Rights Campaign

Campaign to Challenge California’s Prop 35, the CASE Act, in 2012

Sex Trafficking in Alaska
This website documents efforts of sex worker activists and researchers in Alaska to combat escalating criminalization.

The Trafficking Debate: Collection of Papers on BAYSWAN
These papers are an early compilation of sex worker rights responses to trafficking issues and discourse.

Anti-Slavery International -Redefining Prostitution as Sex Work on the International Agenda byJo Bindman w/Jo Doezema (1997)
“The earliest definitions of ‘trafficking’ were used to distinguish the ‘innocent’ woman, who found herself in the sex industry as a result of abduction or deceit, from the ordinary prostitute. This was to allow the participation in the treaties about ‘trafficking’ of the many national governments which permitted highly regulated forms of prostitution. These were not willing to sign a document which required the elimination of prostitution.  Network of Sex Work Projects.” 

Strategies for Alliances
“…to address the concerns of those who may be adversely affected by government measures to combat trafficking, in an effort to encourage the development of strategies supporting all women’s rights.”