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Partial decriminalization still leaves sex workers vulnerable

The following letter by Rachel Roth of Arlington was published March 11 in BostonGlobe.com under the headline "Push is on to reform Mass. prostitution laws.” It is republished with the author's permission.letters

I’m disappointed that the story about reforming archaic laws against sex workers  (“Move made to overhaul Mass. prostitution laws,” Page A1, March 4) didn’t even mention bills to fully decriminalize sex work and to improve the health and safety of people who engage in it, let alone quote anyone on the merits of these policy approaches.

I lived in Ireland, which was cited as a country with a “Nordic Model” law similar to the one proposed here, which maintains criminal penalties for the purchase of sex. What the article didn’t mention is the longstanding opposition of sex workers in Ireland, who predicted correctly that rather than helping them, the law would have adverse consequences, includinglopsided arrests of people selling sex in comparison with people buying sex, the most basic problem such laws purport to solve.

Under this type of law in Northern Ireland, demand didn’t end, and sex workers experienced a dramatic rise in violent crime against them. A review of the law concluded that criminalizing clients does nothing to fight human trafficking or sexual exploitation. All forms of human trafficking are appalling.

Globe readers should know that human trafficking is already illegal. However, not all sex for money is trafficking. Organizations from Amnesty International to the World Health Organization endorse full decriminalization to reduce harm and promote health and human rights. Massachusetts can repeal archaic laws, expunge people’s records, and provide material assistance without going down a path that has backfired elsewhere.


This letter was republished Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

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Wednesday, 29 May 2024

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