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Literature review

Often in discussion on sex work law and policy I see sex workers and allies, who know SESTA-FOSTA, the Nordic model, and criminalisation, harms sex workers, grappling for data or research to support their words.


This is a collection of research from academics or respected organisations on documenting the harms of sex work criminalisation, SESTA-FOSTA and Nordic model implementation. Hopefully it might provide a handy resource for sex workers and their allies when needing to demonstrate and support their case.

Here is a regularly updated reference list, arranged in alphabetical order, which opens as a Pdf. Please feel free to use and share - Link

(work in progress)


Below is an unsorted selection of research evidence from the reference list above.

Crago A. L. (2008). Our Lives Matter: Sex Workers Unite for Health and Rights. Open Society Institute Public Health Program - Link

Crago 2 2008

Cunningham S., Shah M. (2014). Decriminalizing indoor prostitution: implications for sexual violence and public health. The national bureau of economic research (NBER) working paper 20281 - Link

Cunningham 2014

Howard S. (2018). Better health for sex workers: which legal model causes least harm? British Medical Journal 361:k2609 - Link

Howard 2018

Levy J., Jakobsson P. (2014). Sweden’s abolitionist  discourse and law: Effects on the dynamics of Swedish sex work and on the lives of Sweden’s sex workers. Criminology & Criminal Justice - Link

Levey and Jakobsson 2014

Supplementary written evidence submitted by National Ugly Mugs. (2016) Home Affairs Committee Prostitution inquiry PRO0244 - Link

parliament ugly mug evidence

Abel G., Fitzgerald L., Brunton C. (2007) The impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the health and safety practices of sex workers: report to the Prostitution Law Review Committee. Health Research Council and Ministry of Justice, New Zealand - Link

abel 2

Amnesty International (2016) Amnesty International policy on state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of sex workers - Link

Amnesty decrim 2016

Danna, D (2012) ‘Client-Only Criminalization in the City of Stockholm: A Local Research on the Application of the “Swedish Model” of Prostitution Policy’, in Sexuality Research and Social Policy 9(1), 80-93 - Link

Danna 2012

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW). (2011). Moving Beyond ‘Supply and Demand’ Catchphrases: Assessing the uses and limitations of demand-based approaches in Anti-Trafficking - Link

gaatw 1 gaatw 4 gaatw 2 gaatw 3

Hester M., Westmarland N. (2004). Tackling Street Prostitution: towards an holistic approach. Home Office Research Study 279 - Link (I dislike many aspects of this article, but the gist that better results come from listening to and working with sex workers instead of using police and law, is a good noise to make).

Hester 2004

Jordan J. (2005). Sex Industry in New Zealand: A Literature Review. Commissioned by the Ministry of Justice to provide an assessment of the state of the sex industry in New Zealand - Link

Jordan 2005

Chu S. K. H., Glass R. (2013-14). Sex Work Law Reform in Canada: considering problems with the ‘Nordic Model’. Alberta Law Review 51:101-124 - Link

Chu 2013 1 Chu 2013 2 Chu 2013 3 Chu 2013 4 Chu 2013 5

Krüsi A., Pacey K., Bird L., Taylor C., Chettiar J., Allan S., Bennett D., Montaner J. S., Kerr T., Shannon K. (2014). Criminalisation of clients: reproducing vulnerabilities for violence and poor health among street-based sex workers in Canada—a qualitative study. British Medical Journal Open 4(6):e005191 - Link

Krusi 2014

Kulick D. (2003). Sex in the New Europe: The Criminalization of Clients and Swedish Fear of Penetration. Anthropological Theory 3(2):199–218 - Link

Kulick 2003 1

Lyon, W. (2014). Client criminalisation and sex workers’ right to health. Hibernian Law Journal 58 - Link

Lyon 2014 3 Kulick 2003 2

Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police Affairs. (2004). Purchasing Sexual Services in Sweden and the Netherlands. A Report by a Working Group on the legal regulation of the purchase of sexual services - Link

Norg ministry 2004 Norg ministry 2004  2 Norg ministry 2004  3 Norg ministry 2004  4

O’Connell Davidson J. (2003). Sleeping with the enemy? Some problems with feminist abolitionist calls to penalise those who buy commercial sex. Social Policy and Society 2(1):55-63 - Link

Davidson 2003 davidson 2003 2

National Union of Students. (2016). Student sex worker research - Link


ScotPep. (2015). The Swedish Model: a briefing - Link

scotpep 1 scotpep 2

Scoular J., Carline A. (2014). A critical account of a “creeping neo-abolitionism”: Regulating prostitution in England and Wales. Criminology and Criminal Justice 14(5), 608-626 - Link

Scoular 2014

World Health Organisation. (2012). Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for sex workers in low- and middle-income countries: Recommendations for a public health approach - Link

who 2012

World Health Organisation. (2013). Implementing Comprehensive HIV/STI Programmes with Sex Workers: practical approaches from collaborative interventions - Link

who 2013

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNAIDS. (2012). Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific. Evidence based report for policy making in 48 countries of the Asia-Pacific region - Link     Note: the words below are centred in the context of Fiji, but the dynamics of criminalisation apply everywhere.

UNDP 2013