Sex workers’ health: international evidence on the law’s impactBMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l343 (Published 24 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l343
- Sally Howard, journalist
- London, UK
Criminalisation of sex work is linked to “extensive harms” among sex workers, concludes a systematic review of the evidence in 33 countries from 1990 to 2018. Its authors say that the review, published in PLOS Medicine,1 is the first to consider sex workers’ health and safety and their access to health and social services.
The research is timely because of global political interest in new legal models of full decriminalisation and of criminalising people who pay for sex, said coauthors Lucy Platt and Pippa Grenfell of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, launching the research in London in December. For example, Australia has seen calls for a nationwide rollout of the decriminalisation model introduced in New South Wales in 1995, and Spain’s prime minister has made criminalising sex buyers a flagship policy of his first term.
As used in New Zealand since 2003 (box), full decriminalisation should be the preferred legal model everywhere, Platt argued, as it had led to sex workers being better able to refuse clients and to insist on condom use.
The researchers wrote, “Opponents of decriminalisation of sex …