EDITORIAL: Sex workers deserve security, updated policy

By Editorial Board

Maddy Asma

One area top-polling 2020 candidates have not landed on concretely—which seems to be a gray area for other candidates, as well—is whether to support the decriminalization of sex work.

The decriminalization of sex work has not been a campaign platform in past elections, but sex workers and their allies have spoken up to say that it needs to become one.

Given the current illegal nature of sex work, this topic is inherently political, rather than strictly moral, and needs to be treated as such. Decriminalizing sex work is the only step that will ensure workers are safe from both public and police abuse, while also allowing them the full extent of human rights.

It is evident that there is no clear stance on the issue  among frontrunners. When pressed about it, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)  said “decriminalization is certainly something that should be considered,” while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she was “open” to the idea of decriminalization. Former Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate who has taken  labor rights under the wing of his platform, has yet to make his stance clear, either. However, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have outright supported the idea, but they are among the few.

Similar to the legalization of marijuana, it could be argued that sex work will “happen anyway,” so why not secure regulations for those involved? Decriminalization would put the power back in the hands of the people, and give access to the right to protections and regulations that all other professions have.

This ideal progression still leaves many unanswered questions, such as whether or not this shift would also allow the expungement of crimes. There is also a definite line between conservative ideas of sex work versus liberal ideas. In the former, this line of work is coupled with moral distress and is believed to be distasteful. If sex work were to reach its true decriminalization, this mindset would  first have to be defeated.

Human rights come under scrutiny too often despite the fact they are for every human. It is easy to box away the idea of allowing security and regulation to sex workers when we are busy dehumanizing them. This is why the politics surrounding this topic are all the more important to discuss. Candidates need to be mindful of whom they represent. Sanders, especially, has a large base of youth voters who are increasingly interested in supporting human rights for all.

The voices of generations of sex workers need to be championed by updated policy. As for those politicians who have shown support for the topic, it is commendable to pilot these efforts. Whether it was a stunt to bring in more voters or they actually care to decriminalize sex work, their efforts matter.