How Social and Structural Stigma Prevent Women Who Engage in Sex Work from Accessing Counselling Services

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McDade, Stevee
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This paper is an examination of existing literature that discusses how stigmatization of sex work prevents women who engage in sex work from accessing counselling services. It will explore current sex work legislation throughout the world and how government policies on sex work can increase stigma associated with sex work. The aim of this paper is to understand how social and structural stigma affect the ability for women who engage in sex work to seek out counselling supports while considering if the decriminalization of sex work alone has been an appropriate measure to promote the well-being of women who engage in sex work. Research suggests that while decriminalization of sex work is a necessary first step, it will not be adequate on its own without extensive sociocultural change in attitudes toward women who engage in sex work. This change can begin by becoming aware of language, challenging, and educating those who use stigmatizing language toward sex work, not normalizing sexual violence under any condition, and getting to know the faces and stories of women who engage in sex work within one’s own community. According to advocates of legalization or decriminalization of sex work, the primary harm against women who engage in sex work is social stigma.
sex work , sex workers , women , social stigma , structural stigma , counselling services , sex work legislation
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess