What do sex workers want? How can they demand an equal opportunity in the work force? The answer is that sex workers have a right to an education and an equal opportunity for employment. In fact, when it comes to employment in the sex industry, many organizations will not hire anyone who has not completed high school or who is still in high school. It is against industry policy to discriminate against any person regardless of whether they have ever had a criminal offense, even when there are no laws requiring them to do so.
But what about the criminalization of prostitution? What about the arrests, the harassment, the criminal charges, and the criminal sentences that can follow a sex worker’s prostitution arrest? If prostitution is legal in one country but illegal in another, the law that applies to those who sell sex in that country will not necessarily apply to those who sell sex in the country where the prostitution is taking place. For example, in many countries, pimps and pimpettes are arrested and prosecuted for engaging in the practice of prostitution, even though such acts are against the law in most countries. However, in certain countries such as the United States, pimps and pimpettes are prosecuted under federal law, which is a separate and stronger law.
Sex workers are not isolated from society. They are often connected with larger groups of people, especially women. The pimps and pimpettes may be working in conjunction with street workers, and the prostitution is often conducted out of small, isolated locations. The pimps and prostitutes make their money from allowing other people to exploit them and from brothel businesses set up for this purpose.
Street workers cannot be expected to work in isolation from other people. When prostitution is conducted out of small, isolated locations, it becomes easy for police and other officials to find and identify the people involved in such brothels. The very fact that prostitution is often conducted out of small, isolated locations indicates that pimps and prostitutes are not afraid of being caught.
The problem of prostitution is worsened by the fact that many governmental organizations have been set up to address the issue of prostitution. These organizations often speak of social evils and of the negative social impacts of prostitution, but they usually have no legal authority to enforce their positions. A person who has been a victim of human trafficking may have an effective sex worker’s rights lawyer, but she will have very little legal protection if her employers do not have a social and legal responsibility to make sure that their employees are not exposed to violence or forced labor. In addition, the mere existence of a social and legal responsibility may not prevent employers from running rough-shod over their workers. For example, an employee at a New York brothel may be subject to an employer’s will whether or not she has been paid her regular wages. This type of abuse may be more widespread than most people realize.
Perhaps the most important question that what do sex workers want, as a group, is whether they want to be criminalized for prostitution. There are a surprising number of people who think that prostitution is actually a good thing (if it is done in the proper way!). People hear about bad examples in countries where women are exploited, and they think that all prostitution should be illegal. But what do sex workers want? They want to be free to work without the fear of arrest, prosecution, or criminalization.
What do sex workers rights groups want? They want access to the same programs that everyone else is entitled to: healthcare, housing, schooling, equal representation in the workplace, and an end to workplace violence. They want to be able to report human-trafficking crimes, and be able to leave the country if they fear for their safety. And they want to be able to leave the country if they decide that they want to, and to be able to keep the money they earned.
The question of what do sex workers want? It is simply not an optional stance. If you want to make the world a better place, you must become a sex worker rights advocate. All people have the right to make a living, regardless of what they do for a living. The lives of illegal street workers, documented and not, are just as worthy of respect as any other person’s.