Off-street sex workers and victim-orientated policymaking at the local level: Denial of agency and consequences of victimhood
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The 2006 Coordinated Prostitution Strategy represented a landmark shift in the regulation of sex work, where sex workers in England and Wales became acknowledged first and foremost as victims of sexual exploitation. Consequentially, sex worker policy at the local level was set to become increasingly victim orientated to meet the needs of this new victim group. This article draws on empirical research and local policy development in Cardiff, Wales to examine how claims of victimhood transcend into practice. First, it draws on data collated from 30 interviews with off-street sex workers to demonstrate that victim status is not easily applied to all sex workers (some of whom make a rational decision to sell sex and who clearly enjoy their work). Second, it critically analyses the denial of agency and the positioning of sex workers as victims within the local policy framework. Advancing critical discussion in this area, we urge policymakers to consider sex workers not as a victim group, but as individuals with different experiences and different needs.
Keywordssex work agency victimhood community safety
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