The Impact of Criminalisation on Sex Workers’ Vulnerability to HIV and Violence


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.

A Community Guide is also available.

Contents include:

  • Introduction
  • Surveillance, Policing and a Culture of Impunity Increase Vulnerability to Violence
    • Criminalisation Creates a Culture of Impunity
    • Law Enforcement as Perpetrators of Violence
    • Impact of Policing on Sex Workers’ Risk Analysis and Decision Making
    • ‘End Demand’ Policies Increase Vulnerability to Violence and HIV
  • The Impact of Surveillance and Policing on Vulnerability to HIV
    • Use of Condoms as Evidence
    • Criminalisation as a Barrier to Care, Treatment and Programme Implementation
  • Vulnerability During Arrest, Court-Involvement and Detention
    • Mandatory HIV and STI Testing
    • Impact of Detention on Sex Workers’ Health
    • Violence in Detention
    • Vulnerability After Criminal Justice System Involvement
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion

You can download this 14 page PDF here. This resource is available in English, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish.