Briefing Paper: Sex Workers’ Lack of Access to Justice


Sex workers around the world face a wide range of barriers to accessing justice, both as victims of crime and when charged with crimes. Since sex work is widely criminalised, most sex workers are denied access to the benefits and rights afforded to other workers under labour laws and face the risk of criminalisation, detention, deportation and legal sanction.

Sex workers experience discrimination at all stages of the justice system; reports of crimes are dismissed by police officers and sex workers receive unjust rulings from judges in the court system. Crimes against sex workers are not taken as seriously as crimes against others and their testimony is given less weight than that of their perpetrators.

Often, sex workers’ rights to protection from the law and freedom from arbitrary detention are systematically violated by police and the judicial system. The miscarriages of justice sex workers face are severe human rights violations that leave sex workers vulnerable to violence while excluding them from equal protection under the law.

This briefing paper examines the main challenges faced by sex workers, identifies the rights violations they experience when seeking to access justice, and provides recommendations to remedy these problems to ensure sex workers’ safety, health and well-being.

You can download this briefing paper above in English, and it is also available in French, Russian, Spanish and Chinese. A Community Guide is also available.

You can also view and download an infographic that summarises this paper.