This project explores the role of client criminalization in shaping the health, safety and human rights of sex workers and evaluates potential policy options to improve the occupational health and safety of sex workers in Canada. As part of a longstanding community-based study (An Evaluation of Sex Workers' Health Access; AESHA) this capstone draws on 47 in-depth qualitative interviews with sex workers and third-parties in indoor venues between 2017-2018, as well as a literature review on client criminalization and previously adopted policy interventions in various settings. A range of policy options were identified to address sex workers' occupational health and safety, including decriminalization, legalization and the adoption of a police agreement to end the targeting of sex workers, and were evaluated against selected criteria. Findings suggest that the elimination of punitive, enforcement based approaches to sex work towards decriminalization, is expected to have the greatest impact on improving sex workers' health and safety. Notably however, anti-sex work opposition remains a significant barrier in implementing decriminalization in Canada. Considering the time, effort and political will required to create an appropriate decriminalization model, the recommendations of this analysis are two-fold: (1) immediately eliminate unrequested police involvement in the sex industry and implement a Good Samaritan law to provide sex workers with the space to define a decriminalization model without the threat of punitive policing; (2) take the time to directly include and consult with the sex work community to establish a decriminalization framework that meets the needs of Canadian sex workers.
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Thesis advisor: DeBeck, Kora
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