Lindsey Seger, student
We need to address the violence against sex workers.
In almost all of the United States, prostitution is an illegal source of income. Because of its perceived immoral standing, direct forms of sex work are placed under vice-crimes. Currently, Nevada is the only state in the U.S. that accepts brothels as a legal form of prostitution. However, this only applies to certain counties in the state, and surprisingly, Clark County (the county in which Las Vegas resides) is not one of them. So what about the sex workers who practice in the other 49 states that turn to street prostitution? How do we stop the violence they face? There are many radical and liberal solutions to this, but regardless of how extreme our government is willing to be, we have to first acknowledge its existence.
Sex work is seen by most as immoral, unethical, and even sinister. The stigma these workers face pushes this profession further into underground thus directly leading to the violence they inhabit. There is a fear to report due to the legality of this profession, therefore these workers become the target of violence. A fact sheet provided by the Sex Workers Outreach Post lists “80% of (prostitutes) had reported experiencing violence, including 27% at the hands of police.” Victim-blaming happens all too often, with people believing violence is written in the fine print of sex work, therefore it should be expected.
So, what actions can be done to protect sex workers? The easiest solution is legalizing the occupation entirely. While violence against sex workers and controlling an uptick in STD’s are main points for legalizing, there are many others. For example, acknowledging sex work as work/labor would allow an increase in tax revenue while also giving these workers more labor rights. Laws could create shelters for these women to turn to in times of need and could change law enforcement practices. Perhaps an addendum to create workshops that teach women safety tips in the field. These are all larger acts that need the willingness of the community. Yet we can make change happen through small acts as well. By simply countering the stigma and empowering these workers we are doing our individual part that can someday lead to an even larger change.
Let us put aside our ethical opinions and understand that all humans deserve a safe work environment. If voluntary, sex work is not a crime. It is work.