In many ways, paid sexual encounters are simpler than regular dating. Rather than worrying about whether to ask someone out, you can send them an email. Instead of difficult conversations and unspoken expectations, you’re able to specify what you want…and your sex professional can set a fair price. Unfortunately, when it comes to the law, things aren’t as straightforward. Sex work law is different everywhere in the world – from country to country and, often, from state to state. Sometimes, all forms of sex work are criminalised, meaning that every worker risks being prosecuted. Sometimes there’s a system known as ‘licensing’ – certain types of workers can practice, while some (often migrant or marginalised folks) are persecuted. It’s a big, complicated topic, but it shouldn’t be. Only one way is fair for everyone – decriminalisation. Sex work decriminalisation means that no type of sex work is outlawed_ sex workers are free to do their jobs, following the same laws and regulations as other types of business. By ‘decriminalisation’ I’m referring to full decriminalisation – a position that leaves nobody behind, regardless of where or how they work. Here are four sex-worker-led organisations from around the world, speaking about the legal issues that affect us and explaining why decrim is the only way forward. In Australia, sex work for escorts in Philadelphia law varies from state to state – and each state uses a different combination of criminalisation, licensing, and_or decriminalisation. In many places, laws are enforced by the police, which means that sex workers risk violence, entrapment, fines, arrest, and deportation. Scarlet Alliance is the national peak sex worker organisation in Australia. They develop policies, run programs and advocate for workers. Their aim is to achieve ‘social, legal, political and economic justice for past and present workers in the sex industry’. Australia’s laws mean that many workers are unfairly treated. Tia, the current president of Scarlet Alliance says, “[Australian] laws disproportionately target sex workers who are most marginalised within our community, including migrants, street-based workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, and workers living with HIV.” These folk already experience a lot of stigma and discrimination…often, sex work laws only increase their suffering and prevent them from getting the support they need. Scarlet Alliance supports full decriminalisation. Tia says, “Decriminalisation would entirely remove the police as regulators and subject sex work to existing business regulations that apply to other industries, providing sex workers with standard workplace protections, and access to justice and broader support services without fear of arrest.” If you’d like to help Aussie sex workers who have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can donate to the. Tia also says that one of the best ways to offer support is to learn about sex worker rights and get involved in the push for change. “There are currently so many active campaigns across the country!” they say. “Listen, and stay informed on the issues that affect us.” In Uganda, sex work is prohibited but widely practised. Criminalisation means that workers are vulnerable to a host of human rights abuses, including rape, violence, trafficking, harassment, discrimination, exclusion from health services, and an inability to seek justice when crimes are committed against them. Care for Us Uganda is a women-led organisation founded in 2019 to advocate for fair access to health, economic empowerment and social justice amongst sex workers, former sex workers, LGBTQI sex workers, the LGBTQI community, and teenage mothers. Nakafu Shamila, the founder and executive director of Care for Us Uganda, says that protecting the rights of sex workers is essential for their safety and wellbeing. “Sex work is illegal according to Uganda’s 1950 penal code but it’s widespread despite this. Many turn to sex work because of poverty and lack of other opportunities. However, we are fighting hard so that their work becomes legal in Uganda and [they] also have their rights.” Nakafu says that decriminalisation of sex work in Uganda would allow workers to protect their health and safety more easily – but aside from the practicalities, it’s also a human right. “Decriminalising sex workers maximises sex workers’ legal protection and their ability to exercise other key rights, including to justice and health care. Legal recognition of sex workers and their occupation maximises their protection, dignity and equality.” If you’d like to support the work of Care for Us Uganda, if you’d like to learn more about how they support sex workers in their community. As Nakafu says, “We can’t do it alone…we need support.” Over the past hundred or so years, Rhode Island has experienced a rollercoaster of criminalisation, legal loopholes, and crackdowns. The experience has only reinforced the convictions of sex workers and advocates that decriminalisation is badly needed. Like Australia, sex work law varies in the United States – it’s prohibited in many places but licensed in others. In Rhode Island, indoor sex work was permitted from 1980 to 2009 thanks to series of laws that accidentally excluded this type of work. Unfortunately, this loophole was closed in 2009 and sex work of this kind has been re-criminalised since. Call Off your Old tired Ethics, Rhode Island chapter (COYOTE RI) is a group of sex workers, former sex workers, trafficking victims and allies that are advocate for policies that promote the health and safety of people in the sex industry. The chapter was founded in 2010 by the current executive director, Bella Robinson – and it came about as a direct response to re-criminalisation of indoor sex work in 2009. Bella believes that decriminalisation is essential, and it needs to happen everywhere. “Decrim has to happen state by state, as the US government can’t make prostitution laws.” she says. “Decrim will allow sex workers equal protection under the law, while allowing them to report violence or exploitation.” has supported marginalised Rhode Island workers during the coronavirus pandemic, raising thousands of dollars for those who are experiencing hardship. You can contribute via their Gofundme. Follow them on In Sweden, a range of laws make life difficult and dangerous for sex workers and the people around them. Sharing household expenses with partners, supporting adult children, and working in the same place as another sex worker are criminalised. Hotels and landlords can be charged for letting sex workers stay, which means that many workers risk eviction and homelessness. Sex workers can be locked up in rehab facilities against their will or deported if they’re not citizens. In 1999, a new layer of criminalisation was added in the form of a ‘sex purchase law’ that criminalised clients for seeing sex workers – an approach often known as the ‘Swedish model.’ Some people misunderstand the Swedish model, thinking that because it focuses on clients, sex workers aren’t penalised. But in reality, workers still suffer abuse and police harassment. Rose Alliance is an organization by and for current and former sex and erotic workers in Sweden. Pye and Hayley are spokespeople for the organisation – and they’ve experienced the disadvantages of this regime first-hand. One of the worst aspects of Swedish law is that it assumes all sex workers are victims who can’t speak for themselves. “Our opinions about the law never mattered, before or after the  law.” Pye says. According to the state, ‘we simply cannot be trusted to say, think, or do the right thing.’ With most citizens assuming that sex workers are victims and sex work is wrong, stigma and discrimination are commonplace. Change must happen – but Pye warns that it would need to involve major shifts in national politics and attitudes. “If full decriminalisation of sex work was made a reality in Sweden…it would mean letting go of the image that Sweden has invested so much towards projecting to the rest of the world.” Decriminalisation would empower sex workers to assert their needs and hold anti-sex-work organisations in Sweden accountable for their words and actions. As well as transforming the national view of sex work, it would allow workers to look after themselves more effectively. Hayley says, “In the instances where sex workers are experiencing abuse - or any issues that we need support with – we’d be much less compromised in seeking support.” To learn more about the work that Rose Alliance is doing to educate and inform on the situation in Sweden, visit their Different places, different laws, different impacts. The problems are complicated, but the solution is simple - it’s about listening to the people who’ve experienced the effect these laws have on their work, and their lives. When we do listen, we learn that the demand for decrim is overwhelming…and it can’t come soon enough. Some of the proceeds from the writing of this blog have been donated to each of the organisations who contributed.