Nikki Thomas argues for decriminalization of sex work

On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada began to hear Canadian sex workers’ case challenging three Canadian laws pertaining to prostitution. To mark this important milestone, Nikki Thomas, Executive Director of Sex Professionals of Canada, wrote two powerful pieces about sex workers’ rights that summarize some of the information we are trying to convey through our video game.

In “Sex Workers Deserve to Have Their Voices Heard”, Thomas gives an overview of the major feminist divide concerning sex work. Some feminists view all sex workers as victims, and sex work itself as a form of violence against women. These feminists argue for assymetrical criminalization, where the purchase of sexual services would become illegal, but the selling of sexual services would remain legal, criminalizing the clients.

However, Thomas argues that this position is paradoxical to one of the core values of feminism- that all women should have the right to control what they do with their bodies. She goes on to explain that this “abolitionist” stance towards sex work undermines and devalues the agency of sex workers. Furthermore, she highlights that strategies to abolish sex work will only push the profession underground, leading to more exploitation, not less.

In “5 Reasons Criminalizing Sex Worker Clients Doesn’t Work”, Thomas expands on her critique of the “abolitionist” stance on sex work. Thomas explains why this approach would not eradicate sex work, but would in fact make sex work more dangerous. Clients would be less willing to share information about themselves, making it impossible for sex workers to adequately screen potential clients. Thomas also points out that while this approach has been adopted in Sweden, it has only exported the industry to neighboring countries, instead of decreasing demand. She highlights that clients would be less likely to report suspected exploitation or violence against sex workers out of fear of being arrested. Lastly, she argues that the “abolitionist” approach discriminates against both clients and sex workers by painting them as exploiters and victims.  Thomas sees decriminalization as the best way to improve working conditions for sex workers and eradicate exploitation.