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The Criminalization Of Sex Work As Structural Violence By Audrey Renson And Grace Sembajwe

624 words - 3 pages

I chose to attend a poster session on the Criminalization of Sex Work as Structural Violence. This research was presented by Audrey Renson and Grace Sembajwe about how the criminalization of sex work, such as prostitution, actually increases risks of sexually transmitted diseases and the risk of violence. I chose to write my reflective paper on this presentation because it connects with what I am learning in Sociology class right now. Criminalization means the process of turning behaviors and certain individuals into crimes and criminals. Structural violence is a term ascribed to sociologist Johan Galtung, which refers to a form of violence where the social structure, location, or an institution can actually harm their citizens by preventing them from receiving their basic needs. In Sociology, we are discussing whether criminalizing something actually improves the situation or makes it worse. We also point out that oftentimes, a negative stigma usually makes ...view middle of the document...

The research done for this topic reveals that the evidence suggests that exposing sex work to a criminalizing legal context is the reason behind all the chaos. By creating laws that make it illegal, street-based sex work is labelled with a stigma that increases the risk for these workers. It causes these workers to get smarter about what they do and move into more desolate and possibly dangerous areas in order to not get caught by the police. Policing also reduces the number of clients for sex workers, which causes the price of services to go down. It causes a lot of competition between sex workers and will often lead to violent altercations. This also negotiates the probability of using a condom during such services; because police can use condoms as evidence, use of a condom becomes a discouraged behavior. This increases the risk of contracting HIV or STIs while also decreasing their access to health and social services. Displaced workers are forced to move away from larger cities and into smaller areas where it is more difficult for them to get medical attention. This proves the point of structural violence because these displaced workers are practically forced into being deprived of their basic survival needs.
Some of the methods used to gather evidence on this subject include conducting Medline and PubMed searches for certain terms such as “sex work”, “prostitution”, “criminalization”, “STI”, “legal context”, and “violence”. These results were then filtered for papers referring to industrialized countries. All of the results remaining were then scanned for relevant articles as references. Finally, these were separated into different themes that all correlate to the same general topic. The conclusion that is drawn states that although there is no systematically collected quantitative data on sex worker populations, there is a lot of evidence that indicate that law and policing generate very high risk environments. A solution that is offered states that prostitution-related sex offenses should be removed from the legal system and instead, the Occupational Safety and Health administration should institute regulations in order to remove stigma from sex work and encourage workers to use protection and pay regular visits to medical centers to have check-ups or treatments.

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