One of the most prevalent stereotypes about legal regulations and sex work is that decriminalizing commercial sex increases trafficking.
This could not be further from the truth–which is why many leading Anti-Trafficking organizations have come out in support of decriminalization of sex work. The open support for decriminalization began oversees, with the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women critiquing “End Demand Tactics” to combat trafficking in a 2011 report and opposing Bill C-36 in 2014, a bill that criminalized clients and third parties in Canada. La Strada International, a leading European Network against Trafficking, has also been outspoken against end demand models and in solidarity with sex worker rights.
Just last week, the Freedom Network, a United States membership organization of 38 service providers and advocates working directly with survivors of human trafficking joined in. In their statement supporting of Amnesty International’s Policy on Sex Work, the network asserts that:
The vote to support decriminalization for both sex workers and third parties is an important step towards valuing the rights and safety of everyone in the sex trade, including trafficking victims, without detracting from the importance of anti-trafficking efforts and the ability to punish traffickers. Sex work and sex trafficking are not synonymous. Sex work involves people making choices that best fit their circumstances. Sex trafficking involves the absence of choice, with people compelled to work in the sex industry through force, fraud, or coercion. Criminalization, whether of sex workers, buyers, or facilitators, harms everyone in the sex trade, including those experiencing trafficking and exploitation.
We thank these organizations for speaking up for the human rights of sex workers and out against racist, sexist, and sensationalist notions of trafficking in persons. We hope that the growing tide of human rights, anti-trafficking, GLBT, HIV prevention, and women’s organizations supporting decriminalization of sex work will help stop the conflation of sex trafficking and sex work, and the conflation of criminalization with effective anti-trafficking strategy.