STRIVE research quoted in international sex-work debate

17 May 2016
Annie Holmes

A feature article in the New York Times magazine – 'Should Prostitution Be a Crime?' – cites a STRIVE paper on research by the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Manitoba.

The paper, by Dr Tara Beattie, Parinita Bhattacharjee et al and published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society, presents findings on “Declines in violence and police arrest among female sex workers in Karnataka state, south India, following a comprehensive HIV prevention programme.”

Quoting the STRIVE paper, New York Times journalist Emily Bazelon writes: 

While it’s illegal to own a brothel or sell sex on the street in India, indoor prostitution is not against the law. Enforcement is uneven, and the police sometimes demand sex or bribes. Nevertheless, the relationship between the police and sex workers can approach a tenuous détente that allows the collectives to assert themselves. A project of the Gates Foundation, from 2005 until 2011, used the collective model to organize 60,000 sex workers in Karnataka. They brought in peer educators to talk to the police and lawyers to teach sex workers about their rights not to be harassed and, often, not to be arrested. As arrests dropped, so did violence by the police, pimps and clients, along with the H.I.V. rate, according to a study last year in The Journal of the International AIDS Society. 

Although primarily from a US point of view, the feature does provides an overview of the ongoing debate on sex-work, which pits advocates of decriminalization against ‘abolitionists’. From the perspective of HIV, decriminalization has been shown to be an effective structural prevention measure. 

Read the full New York Times article here.