The Sept. 3 editorial “The wrong move for the progressive movement” claimed that decriminalizing sex work would make sex workers and communities less safe. But evidence suggests otherwise: Removing criminal penalties for sex work has actually been shown to reduce violence and increase access to critical health and social services.
Decriminalizing sex work, which would bring it under existing labor law, has reduced violence against sex workers in New Zealand, one of the few places in the world where sex work is decriminalized, and increased their ability to report crimes without fear of prosecution. Studies show this approach can reduce HIV rates among sex workers by as much as 46 percent. It’s no surprise that D.C.-based sex workers themselves are calling for decriminalization.
Other models inaccurately claim that criminalizing clients protects sex workers. But studies from France and Canada demonstrate that criminalizing clients increases sex workers’ exposure to abuse. Why? Because pushing sex work underground reduces the ability to work in safe conditions.
The District’s bill to decriminalize prostitution wouldn’t hurt those in the sex trade; on the contrary, it would help save lives.
Julia Lukomnik, New York
The writer is program officer with the Open Society Public Health Program.