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What is the Equality Model?

It is a legal framework that supports survivors and victims of prostitution while strengthening laws against sex trafficking. The Equality Model ends the wrongful arrests and incarceration of people bought and sold for prostitution and offers them trauma-informed services - housing, medical and mental health care, legal aid, and more. Additionally, the Equality Model automatically expunges all past charges for prostitution and loitering for the purpose of prostitution, and clears the criminal records of trafficking survivors for crimes committed while under control of their exploiter. 


The Equality Model enforces all penalties and laws against purchasing sex and promoting prostitution (i.e. pimping). In this way, it works to shrink the market for prostitution and therefore prevent and end sex trafficking. 

What's the connection between sex trafficking and prostitution?

The system of prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked. 


While not every person in prostitution has been trafficked, the multi-billion dollar sex trade would not survive without traffickers constantly bringing people in. 


It’s a supply-demand equation. In the sex trade, the supply is human beings, the demand is sex buyers. The more demand there is, the more supply is needed. So, if prostitution is legal  - meaning there are no consequences for sex buying or pimping - demand for paid sex increases. With this increase in demand, traffickers must find more supply. And who do they look for? They target marginalized groups like women and girls of color, homeless youth, LGBTQ+ individuals, and immigrants with lack of choices.

I've never heard of the Equality Model, but I have heard of "decriminalizing sex work." What's the difference?

Decriminalizing “sex work” means decriminalizing all parts of the sex trade, including removing the penalties related to buying sex, pimping, and operating brothels. This means that the people profiting from commercial sex establishments (like brothels, illicit massage parlors, escort services, etc.) are seen under the law as employers and entrepreneurs, and no longer have to fear police intervention. Sex buyers are now “clients” or “customers,” and can freely assert their consumer rights under the protection of the law. 


The Equality Model, on the other hand, recognizes the sex trade as an environment of oppression, violence, and discrimination, and works to support and uplift the people caught in it. The Equality Model penalizes the people who commit and profit from acts of violence and exploitation - the sex buyers, pimps, brothel owners, etc. mentioned above. 

OK. Then is legalization better?

No. Legalization is the same as decriminalization but the government establishes specific regulations, such as limiting the number of prostituted women in brothels or requiring the registration of prostituted individuals with local authorities. Despite these supposed “safeguards,” countries that legalized prostitution (like Germany and the Netherlands) have experienced an increase in sex trafficking, rampant sex tourism, and a rise in child sexual exploitation.


Why don’t you use the term “sex worker?” I thought that was the respectful term to use. I don’t want to say “prostitute.”

We don’t either! Both terms “sex worker” and “prostitute” erase all the other players in the sex trade, and place the responsibility entirely on the individual being bought and sold. You don’t think about the sex buyer, the pimp, the entire system that props up the market. Suddenly the conversation becomes all about an individual's “choice” to be in prostitution. We are drawn to simple narratives like “My body, My choice,” but the reality is so much more complicated.


Prostitution is rarely a “choice” made by people who have other choices. The majority of people in prostitution come from backgrounds of foster care, poverty, homelessness, sexual and/or physical abuse, substance abuse disorder or marginalized communities: women and girls of color, LGBTQ+ individuals. Studies indicate that most individuals were trafficked into prostitution as children


A more accurate term to use is “prostituted person” or “person in prostitution” to reflect the system that they are in, and the harm being done to them.

Isn’t “sex work” work?

The term “sex work” categorizes prostitution as labor, which we fundamentally reject. 


Ask yourself:

What other “job” involves direct contact with bodily fluids (i.e. sweat, saliva, semen, blood, feces), making compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Standards impossible?


What other “job” comes with such health risks as STIs, cystitis, unwanted pregnancies, vagina, pelvic and anal injuries? 


What other “job” comes with such high rates of sexual and physical violence? Mortality rates for women in prostitution are 40-50 times the national average. 62% report being raped, 73% report being physically assaulted. 


“Sex work is work” is a marketing slogan, not a description of what being in the sex trade is actually like.

Won’t criminalizing sex buyers and pimps make it more dangerous for people in prostitution?

Prostitution will always be violent and dangerous - there is no way to reduce its harms or make it safe. 


Proponents of decriminalizing the sex trade say that if everything’s legal, then people in prostitution can screen sex buyers, do background checks, etc. But there is no way to reliably screen sex buyers, or to predict a person’s capacity for violence.  

In places where sex buyers and pimps aren’t criminalized, law enforcement lack the tools to investigate and prosecute instances of sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

What about people who choose to sell sex?

Our governments have an obligation to set laws and policies that protect people in situations of violence and exploitation, even if a small minority of that population disagree. We cannot look at this issue from an individualized perspective of one person’s choice to be in the sex trade. We must look at the inherently violent sex trade as a societal and systemic issue that affects our entire community.

The Equality Model does not criminalize those who sell sex. In fact, it increases protections for them against violence and exploitation by maintaining laws against the players that cause the harm in the sex trade - sex buyers, pimps and traffickers. 

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