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As Molly Smith and Juno Mac write in their 2018 book tens of thousands of people are “arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, deported, or fined” for sex work-related offenses in the US every year.
Activists have been pushing for decriminalization worldwide for years, and they’ve had some successes: New Zealand removed criminal penalties in 2003, and Amnesty International called on all countries to do so in 2016.
Police “take advantage of us.” Then there is the financial toll of criminalization.
Repeated arrests and fines for doing sex work have driven Spellman further into poverty. Criminal penalties can take a toll on sex workers’ families too.
“The only difference is that we charge for it.” Spellman has been a sex worker in Washington, DC, for more than 30 years.
In that time, she’s faced a stream of abusive behavior from police.