The Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Sex Workers

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This resource is an OSF briefing paper on the recent findings of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. It aims to highlight the Commission's findings in language that will make the information useful for activists and those advocating for sex workers' rights. 

The resource covers the Commission's key findings and recommended actions.

The key findings can be summarised as:

  • criminalisation makes it difficult for sex workers to organise for rights;
  • when forced underground, sex workers have less power to insist on condom use and are more vulnerable to police and client violence and extortion;
  • campaigns aiming to tackle human trafficking often conflate sex work and trafficking. This wastes resources (that could be expended tackling trafficking, and instead go towards criminalising sex workers); undermines the rights of sex workers, and inhibits harm reduction approaches;
  • the Swedish model hurts sex workers, who are pushed underground. It diverts resources away from services for sex workers, and into policing (which is both ineffective on it's own terms - few convictions are secured - and harms the rights of sex workers);
  • sex worker organising works! When sex workers organise, we can gain human rights and improved health services.

The actions recommended are:

  • decriminalise sex work, including third parties and clients
  • facilitate safe workplaces
  • prohibit human rights violations that sex workers are particularly vulnerable to, specificaly in terms of outlawing mandatory HIV testing, and repealing public nuisance laws that are used to license police harassment of sex workers
  • ensure that anti-trafficking efforts recognise sex work as work and thus direct their efforts towards tackling trafficking and not tackling sex work
  • end the involuntary "rehabilitation" of sex workers
  • end funding restrictions (like those attached to PEPFAR) which place ideological opposition to sex work above sex workers rights to health, justice, and labour rights;
  • reform international law to reflect recognition of sex work as work and to embed the health and human rights of sex workers at the centre of laws that pertain to us