Decriminalize Sex Workers

February 24, 2008
To the Editor:

“The Wrong Target,” by Bob Herbert (column, Feb. 19), is right to direct attention to the Safe Harbor Act and the effort to decriminalize minors who do sex work. Any child induced into prostitution is a victim of trafficking and needs services, not punishment.

In addition, we need a paradigm shift for adult sex workers. Criminalization of sex work forces both minors and adults who do it into the shadows, making them more vulnerable to violence and making it harder for them to leave if they want to.

Those arrested in their homes can be summarily evicted; immigrants who have done sex work can be denied status to which they are otherwise entitled; and sex workers with criminal records are often turned away when they look for other jobs.

Focusing our resources on education, health care and economic opportunities, instead of on arresting and convicting sex workers, would do more to ensure that no one is forced to enter sex work, or stay in it.

Sienna Baskin
Legal Fellow, Sex Workers Project
New York, Feb. 20, 2008


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