Regressive and progressive approaches to demand


In recent years, in an attempt to ameliorate discrimination against (mostly female) sellers of sex and address issues of health and safety, two distinctly different approaches to prostitution law reform have emerged:

  • legally sanctioning the buying and selling of sex, either through legalising or decriminalising prostitution
  • criminalising the purchase of sex while assisting those who sell sex to exit prostitution. 

In the mistaken belief that legalising or decriminalising prostitution will provide safety for women involved in prostitution (see FAQs), this liberal approach unwittingly normalises sex buying behaviour, reinforces sexist attitudes, accommodates gendered violence inherent within prostitution, and entrenches gender inequality.  It commodifies sex as "work" and turns pimps and brothel owners into "entrepeneurs".  

The progressive approach of criminalising the purchase of sex combined with law enforcement and public education, and offering exit support  to sex sellers, sets out to abolish the gender inequalities and harm that are inherent within prostitution, with the ultimate goal of progressing towards a more gender equitable society.

 

PROGRESSIVE countries that have said
 
NO 
 
to sex buying behaviour
to reinforcing sexist attitudes
to accommodating gendered violence
to entrenching gender inequality
 
by criminalising the buying of sex
and providing exit support to sellers 

Sweden Norway Iceland Canada
     
Under consideration: Ireland ♦ Northern Ireland

LIBERAL countries that have said

YES

to sex buying behaviour
to reinforcing sexist attitudes
to accommodating gendered violence
to entrenching gender inequality

by decriminalising or

legalising prostitution

Netherlands Germany Australia New Zealand
     

Check out the impact of both approaches in the Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down examples.

 

See also the FAQs section: 

  • What about men’s sexual "needs"?
  • Isn't prostitution an acceptable solution to poverty?
  • What about "choice"?
  • Doesn't decriminalising or legalising prostitution provide safety to women in prostitution?
  • What about women’s "agency", "empowerment" and "sex work"?