Social Work and Prostitution

Sex workers continue to face criminalization, violence, discrimination and other forms of human rights violations.

Prostitution entails the act of engaging in somewhat indiscriminate sexual intercourse with someone who is not a spouse or acquaintance in exchange for quick payment in cash or other goods. Prostitutes can be female, male, or transgender, and prostitution can be heterosexual or gay, although traditionally, the majority of prostitutes have been female, and the majority of clients have been males.

Prostitution is seen differently in different countries due to culturally defined ideals. Prostitutes have been considered part of a recognized profession in certain communities, while they have been shunned, hated, and punished with stoning, jail, and death in others. Little civilizations have treated clients with the same harshness; in fact, in many societies, clients face few, if any, legal consequences.

Criminalization of Sex Workers is a Human Rights Issue.

Adult, voluntary, and consensual sex – as well as the commercial exchange of sexual services – should not be criminalized because it violates the fundamental right to personal autonomy and privacy. In other words, the government should not be dictating to consenting people who they can have sexual relations with and under what conditions.

Sex workers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by law enforcement authorities, such as police officers, when they are criminalized. Police officers harass sex workers, extort bribes, physically and verbally abuse them, and even rape or compel sex from them in criminalized situations.

Criminalizing sex workers makes them more vulnerable to violence, such as rape, assault, and murder, by perpetrators who perceive sex workers as easy targets since they are stigmatized and unlikely to obtain assistance from the authorities. Criminalization may also push sex workers to work in dangerous places in order to avoid being arrested.

Criminalization of prostitution also has a detrimental impact on other human rights. Sex workers are less likely to be able to organize as workers, advocate for their rights, or work together to support and defend themselves in nations where sex work is prohibited.

FSF-IHCE Response to Help Protect Sex Workers through Education.

Decriminalizing sex work increases sex workers’ legal protection as well as their capacity to exercise other important rights, such as access to justice and health care. The protection, dignity, and equality of sex workers are enhanced by legal acknowledgment of their employment. This is a key step in the process of de-stigmatizing sex work.

People who volunteer for sex work may come from low-income or marginalized backgrounds and experience discrimination and inequity, especially in the job market. With this in mind, FSF-IHCE promotes research and education, financial assistance, job training and placement, social services, and information to better the human rights situation for sex workers.

FSF-IHCE also supports initiatives to prevent discrimination against sex workers based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, or immigration status.