On the 2nd of June 2015 it will be 40 years since about 100 sex workers occupied Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France to protest against their exploited working conditions. Since then, society has changed a lot, but the rights of sex workers and peoples attitudes towards the profession remains the same.
Sex workers are often exposed to violence and cases of abuse, especially in countries where the profession is illegal and the state has no means of controlling it; both the threshold for reporting crimes related to the trade to authorities and for seeking medical assistance in case of emergency is high in fear of being criminalized. Several reports state that sex workers are more often exposed to HIV and sexually transmittable diseases then the rest of the population, yet little effort seem to be taken to improve the situation on a long-term basis.
We see that even in countries where prostitution is not yet legal, the internet is transforming sex trade. The number of apps and web sites for the profession are rapidly increasing, making it easier for sex workers to get in touch with customers. These features are contributing to establishing an underground market, where safety and health is far from the priority. At the same time prostitution is in many countries a scene for trafficking; an industry that ruins the life of many people, especially young women. This is a situation that is not to be underestimated, and that demands action now.
One attempt to solve these problems has been attempted in some countries, like Germany, where prostitution and advertising for the trade has been made legal. One can see several positive side-effects of legalization: The prostitutes are off the streets, they can pay into a pension, and demand health insurance. Many sex workers have stated that this has made the profession into a safer environment for all parts, and that they are some of many reasons for why legalization is a good solution for dealing with the industry. With state regulated brothels, one can also provide sex workers a place to work without the fear of being abused or criminalized for their actions.
Sex trade is not a new profession. It has existed as long as man can remember, and has proven to proceed to exist even though we criminalize the trade. The 3rd of March marks the international sex workers rights’ day, and it highlights a very important cause: Sex workers rights today are, in many countries extremely poor, and we have yet far to go when it comes to making prostitution a safe profession for those who wish to work as sex workers. I believe the first step is to recognize prostitution as a profession, and through this create a higher social status for the sex workers. The only way we can achieve this it is through legalizing prostitution and allowing state-regulated brothels.
Kjersti Møller is the International officer of the Norwegian Young Liberals and Manager of the IFLRY pool of trainers.