Sex Workers Without Borders is an educational organization and advocacy group whose focus is the wide array of human rights issues involved with all forms of sex work, including both voluntary and coerced prostitution. Our mission is to use both media and live appearances to raise public awareness of sex workers’ human rights, and to combat the harm done by individuals and organizations who seek to deny those rights. We strive to end the long standing marginalization of sex workers through expansion of social consciousness.
SWWB advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution from the platforms of both harm reduction and individual agency. We believe that most social ills attributed to prostitution itself are actually caused by its criminalization; for example, ”sex trafficking” by definition is only possible within criminalized, underground, and unregulated industries. The disproportionate amount of violence against sex workers is due to the fact that criminalization makes them especially vulnerable. Under the current system, it is impossible for sex workers to seek protection from law enforcement, which sets the dangerous precedent that human rights only apply to certain groups of people. Decriminalization is the only way to place individual agency back into the hands of sex workers.
Though we are often incorrectly stereotyped as mentally incompetent, addicted, diseased and desperate, sex workers actually come from all backgrounds and walks of life, and 85% of us work indoors. Many are single mothers, some are students, and some use sex work to supplement their incomes from other sources. Some would choose to leave sex work if they had different options open to them, while others enjoy their chosen profession and would choose sex work regardless of circumstance. In fact, some of our members are university graduates who choose sex work because they have found it to be best suited to their goals. All sex workers are human beings and as such ought to be afforded basic human rights to life and liberty.
Unfortunately, criminalization worsens the quality of life for all sex workers; it closes doors to those who want to get out of the industry and forces them to remain. Families are torn apart when parents are declared unfit for no reason except the fact that the state disapproves of their method of employment. Sex workers not only deal with stigmatization and unsafe working conditions, but also the possibility of being thrown in jail for simply trying to earn a living, even though they have violated no individual’s rights.
SWWB’s stance on the “Swedish Model” (criminalization of the purchase of sexual services rather than their sale) is that it robs sex workers of agency and assigns them the role of victim regardless of the status of their consent. Such legislation pushes the women’s rights movement back an entire century by reducing all women to infantilized dullards incapable of independent choice and likening them to objects which can be “trafficked” like a trunkfull of marijuana or a kilogram of cocaine. The abolitionist approach conveniently ignores the social and economic issues that compel women to enter the sex industry and instead causes further harm to the very people they claim to want to help. The model of decriminalization our organization supports mirrors that of the legislation successfully implemented by New Zealand in 2003.