Policy Change in Prostitution in the Netherlands: from Legalisation to Strict Control


This article looks at how legalisation came to the netherlands; what it was intended to do, and what the impact has been on sex workers. In order to answer these lines of enquiry, the article examines what discourses frame the major actors in this debate, starting with a historical overview of Dutch sex work policies throughout the 20th century. Having established the socio-political backdrop of the Netherlands' approach to legalised sex work, the resource discusses how legalisation (or regulationism) "did not solve a number of serious problems in the sex industry".

Laws and Policies Affecting Sex Work


This reference text seeks to "clarify terms and illustrate examples of alternatives to the use of criminal law as a response to sex work". It provides capsule definitions - with small case-studies or examples - of what a variety of laws and policies look like in terms of their impact on sex work, covering criminalisation, legalisation, and decriminalisation, along with a mini-discussion of other laws that are used against sex workers, such as the criminalisation of HIV transmission, or immigration enforcement.

In Response to Scottish Trades Union Congress Decision to Disregard the Rights of Sex Workers to Organise and Unionise

NSWP Statement

NSWP condemns the recent decision by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) to cancel their agreement with Sex Worker Open University (SWOU) to provide a venue for the upcoming ‘Sex Workers’ Rights and Community Building Festival’.

The ‘Sex Workers’ Rights and Community Building Festival’ brings together sex workers and allies from across the world and has attracted worldwide attention and public interest. It provides opportunities for both sex workers and other experts to share ideas and experiences, organise for sex workers’ rights, and strategise around resisting harmful laws and policies. The decision to organise this festival in Scotland is extremely timely in light of recent attempts to criminalise those who purchase sexual services (known as the ‘Swedish Model’). This approach is one that has been criticised heavily by NSWP and our members as it negatively impacts upon the health and human rights of sex workers. 

Sex work is recognised as informal labour by International Labour Organisation and sex workers are protected under ILO Recommendation 200[1]. NSWP regrets and condemns the decision of STUC to take an approach to sex workers' rights that sits in contradiction to the recommendations of the ILO. This position is a clear dismissal of sex workers as deserving of trade union support and undermines their fundamental human right to organise and unionise.

In a statement the STUC claimed their decision was taken because the title of the event diametrically contradicts the STUC position – and yet the title of the event to have been held in the STUC building is ‘Looking at Laws and Policies that Impact on Sex Workers and Strategies for Resistance and Change.’, not as claimed “The Scottish Context: Opposing Criminalisation of Clients.”, which is the topic of one presentation by SCOT-PEP representing Scottish sex workers perspectives.  The STUC decision clearly represents an attempt to stifle the voices of sex workers and evidence-based debate on the current discourse in Scotland and beyond. It should also be noted that the STUC did not refuse to host this event but cancelled the booking at very short notice after publicity materials had been produced and distributed, at significant cost to a poorly-resourced sex worker rights movement.

NSWP urge the STUC to review their position in relation to supporting sex workers to organise, rather than be part of the system that oppresses sex workers. Sex work is work and sex workers must be afforded the same labour rights as any other workers. Any political perspective or legal framework that refuses to acknowledge this violates the human rights of sex workers.


Analysing the Implementation of PEPFAR's anti-prostitution pledge

An analysis of the implementation of PEPFAR’s anti-prostitution pledge and its implications for successful HIV prevention among organizations working with sex workers

Melissa Hope Ditmore & Dan Allman have written this analysis published in the Journal of the international AIDS Society

Abstract follows:


NSWP Condemnation of Proposition #35

The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) exists to uphold the voice of sex workers globally and connect regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers

NSWP condemns California's Proposition #35 on the basis that the legislation is based on a dangerous conflation of sex work and human trafficking, which fails to provide a workable approach/solution to stop forced labour and other abuse, but rather serves to heighten the criminalisation and marginalisation of sex workers and those associated with them (including their families). Proposition #35 is based on unfounded claims and a significant lack of evidence and exploits a public concern over human trafficking and slavery. The definitions that are employed by the drafters of the proposition are over-reaching and explode any distinction between sex work and human trafficking.

UK countries consult on further criminalisation

Two countries in the United Kingdom  - Scotland and Northern Ireland - are currently consulting on proposals to introduce legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex.

In Scotland, Rhoda Grant MSP (Labour) has launched a public consultation on her proposal for her private members bill, 'Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex (Scotland) Bill'.  The public consultation runs until 14th December.  You can download her consultation document on the Scottish Parliament's website here.  NSWP member organisation SCOT-PEP have been campaigning vigorously against the proposals and there will be updates on their website relating to the consultation as it progresses.

In Northern Ireland, Lord (Maurice) Morrow MLA (Democratic Unionist Party) has a consultation running until 18th October on his draft Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Further Provisions & Support for Victims) Bill which he has already drafted.  His Bill includes a range of measures aimed at tackling trafficking, but most disturbingly also includes the 'introduction of a new offence of paying for the sexual services of a prostitute'More information and the consultation paper can be found on the Northern Ireland Assembly website here.

Supreme Court in India backs inclusion of DMSC and USHA

India's Supreme Court (Apex Court) backed a decided not to exclude West Bengal-based NGO Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) and Usha Cooperative from a committee of senior lawyers, NGOs and Government officials, which is constituted in July last year, to suggest measures on sex workers dignity.

The court confirmed the need to get views from the concerned people about whom the committee is formed, after an objection was lodged by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.  They had argued that as these organisations 'openly advocated for the rights of sex workers' that this would make their inclusion contrary to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act.  This was rejected by the Supreme Court.

The delegates at the Sex Worker Freedom Festival welcomed the news.  NSWP President Andrew Hunter said, “The Supreme Court of India has reiterated that “right to live with dignity” is a Constitutional right. This would help our struggle worldwide to go a long way ahead.”

Read more on this story in The Sunday Indian.

A Call to Action: Global Sex Workers Recommend Policy Change for Better HIV Prevention and Treatment

In 2011, sex workers participated in a global review of HIV policy through the UN sponsored Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Regional dialogues took place around the world, and sex workers rights groups advocated for reform of polices to improve HIV prevention and treatment for sex workers. In sex workers' statements from around the world, similar concerns were echoed, including funding restrictions that impede prevention for sex workers; the criminalisation of sex work and the dangerous public health situations it creates, such as reduced use of condoms and increased violence; the use of other discriminatory laws to repress and punish sex workers; the exclusion of migrant sex workers; and the increased targeting of clients of sex workers. This IAC Washington Symposium included panelists from the international sex workers rights movement, presenting policy reform recommendations to improve HIV prevention and treatment for sex workers.

New publications on sex work - Open Society Foundations

Three new publications relating to sex work have been released by the Open Society Foundations.

Laws and Policies Affecting Sex Work

This reference brief aims to clarify terms and illustrate examples of alternatives to the use of criminal law as a response to sex work. Laws and policies on sex work should be based on the best available evidence about what works to protect health and rights. They should optimise sex workers' ability to realise the right to due process under the law, the right to privacy, the right to form associations, the right to be free of discrimination, abuse, and violence, and the right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work.

Ten Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work

This document provides ten reasons why decriminalising sex work is the best policy for promoting health and human rights for sex workers, their families, and communities. Removing criminal prosecution of sex work goes hand-in-hand with recognising sex work as work and protecting the rights of sex workers through workplace health and safety standards. Decriminalising sex work means sex workers are more likely to live without stigma, social exclusion, and fear of violence.

Criminalizing Condoms

How Policing Practices Put Sex Workers and HIV Services at Risk in Kenya, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, the United States, and Zimbabwe.

Beyond ‘Supply and Demand’ Catchphrases: Assessing the Uses and Limitations of Demand-Based Approaches in Anti-Trafficking


The need to reduce ‘demand’ for trafficked persons is widely mentioned in the anti-trafficking sector but few have looked at ‘demand’ critically or substantively. Some ‘demand’-based approaches have been heavily critiqued, such as the idea that eliminating sex workers’ clients (or the ‘demand’ for commercial sex) through incarceration or stigmatisation will reduce trafficking.