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Legal Contexts

Links to research/articles/campaigning materials regarding the global legalities of the adult entertainment/sex industry. To share your research on this page please fill in the form on the 'Contact us' page or email

Sex Work and the New Zealand Model - Decriminalisation and Social Change

Edited by Lynzi Armstrong and Gillian Abel

More than 15 years have passed since the law regarding sex workers in New Zealand has changed. As a model it has been endorsed as best practice by international organisations, leading scholars and sex worker-led organisations. Yet in some corners, speculation is ongoing regarding its impacts on the ground. Access this new publication here.

Watch a video where Lynzi and Gillian discuss the book and more regarding the decriminalisation model here.

'The Fight to Decriminalise Sex Work'

Beyond Trafficking and Slavery - Cameron Thibos/Elena Shih

'COVID-19 threatens both the lives and livelihoods of sex workers yet governments look the other way.'

A new publication seeks to help sex workers get their attention. Beyond Trafficking and Slavery released the online version of this collection on 11 January 2020 to coincide with Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States. They chose to situate this discussion in relation to the anti-trafficking movement because of the way that anti-trafficking interventions paradoxically enhance policing and surveillance of sex workers as a means of rescuing them. Click here to download this publication.

Sex Work Legal Frameworks

Fact sheet regarding the various legal structures applied to the adult entertainment/sex industry around the world.

Access it here.

Policing the Sex Industry - Protection, Paternalism and Politics

Teela Sanders, Mary Laing (2018)

Unpicking the relationship between police practice and commercial sex whilst speaking to the current policy agendas, Policing the Sex Industry explores key issues including: trafficking, decriminalisation, localised impacts of punitive policing approaches, uneven policing approaches, hate-crime approaches and the impact of policing on trans sex workers.

Access the link here.

Criminalization, protection and rights: Global tensions in the governance of commercial sex

Teela Sanders, Rosie Campbell (2014)

In this special issue global trends in the governance of commercial sex over the past decade are examined and set out where this collection contributes to critical understandings of the governance of commercial sex through an analysis of the global legal, policy and policing trends.

Access the article here.

Policy Brief: Sex Work as Work

NSWP - Global Network of Sex Work Projects (2017)

This global policy brief looks at sex work through a labour framework, and advocates for the recognition of sex work as work.

Access the publication here.

'Decriminalsation of sex work in the post-truth era? Strategic storytelling in neo-abolitionist accounts of the New Zealand model'

Lynzi Armstrong (2020)

In the context of on-going debates regarding sex work laws, in most jurisdictions forms of criminalisation continue to dominate. Despite decades of sex workers calling for the decriminalisation of sex work and collectively organising against repressive laws, decriminalisation remains uncommon. New Zealand was the first full country to decriminalise sex work with the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003. This article examines neo-abolitionist knowledge claims regarding the New Zealand model and in doing so unpacks the strategic stories told about this approach, considering the implications for sex work policy making.

Access the article here.

'The Current Landscape of Prostitution and Sex Work in England and Wales'

Andrea Matolcsi, Natasha Mulvihill, Sarah‑Jane Lilley‑Walker, Alba Lanau, Marianne Hester

This paper presents a comprehensive typology of the sex industry based on primary data collected between 2018 and 2019 for a UK Home Office-funded study. Typologies of the contemporary sex industry in England and Wales have tended to be limited to particular sectors or have been developed from a specific disciplinary perspective or theme (e.g. sexual health programming, income). Situated in the context of international sex industry typologies, this paper seeks to address this gap.

Access the article here.


House of Commons Home Affairs Committee

Third Report of Session 2016–17

The Home Affairs Committee publishes an interim report on prostitution, saying that soliciting by sex workers, and sex workers sharing premises, should be decriminalised.

Read the report here.

Decriminalization of Sex Work: Feminist Discourses in Light of Research

Jacqueline Comte (2014)

Three main ideological stances exist regarding sex work issues: abolitionism, sex-positive feminism, and decriminalization. We argue for decriminalization based on decades of research results.

Access the article here.

The nature and prevalence of prostitution and sex work in England and Wales today

Professor Marianne Hester, Dr Natasha Mulvihill, Dr Andrea Matolcsi, Dr Alba Lanau Sanchez and Sarah-Jane Walker (2019)

In Spring 2018 a team of researchers at the University of Bristol were commissioned by the Home Office and the Office of the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner to report on the current ‘nature’ and ‘prevalence’ of prostitution in England and Wales.

Read the report here.

Laws and Policies Affecting Sex Work - A Reference Brief

Open Society Foundations

This reference brief aims to clarify terms and illustrate examples of alternatives to the use of criminal law as a response to sex work.

Download it here.

A decade of decriminalization: Sex work 'down under' but not underground

Gillian M Abel (2014)

New Zealand was the first country to decriminalize sex work. This article provides a reflective commentary on decriminalization, its implementation and its impacts in New Zealand.

Download it here.

National Policing Sex Work and Prostitution Guidance

ACC Dan Vajzovic - National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) (2019)

This guidance offers practical advice to those dealing with sex work related issues. It recognises the need to address community concerns but also stresses as a priority the duty that police services have to enhance the safety of sex workers and to find practical ways to address crimes against, and exploitation of, those connected to prostitution.

Download it here.


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