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    Argento, Elena Duff, Putu Bingham, Brittany Chapman, Jules Nguyen, Paul Strathdee, Steffanie A. and Shannon, Kate 2016. Social Cohesion Among Sex Workers and Client Condom Refusal in a Canadian Setting: Implications for Structural and Community-Led Interventions. AIDS and Behavior, Vol. 20, Issue. 6, p. 1275.

    Bowen, Raven and Bungay, Vicky 2016. Taint: an examination of the lived experiences of stigma and its lingering effects for eight sex industry experts. Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 18, Issue. 2, p. 184.

    Cunningham, Stewart 2016. Reinforcing or Challenging Stigma? The Risks and Benefits of ‘Dignity Talk’ in Sex Work Discourse. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, Vol. 29, Issue. 1, p. 45.

    Krüsi, Andrea Kerr, Thomas Taylor, Christina Rhodes, Tim and Shannon, Kate 2016. ‘They won't change it back in their heads that we're trash’: the intersection of sex work-related stigma and evolving policing strategies. Sociology of Health & Illness,

    Anderson, Solanna Jia, Jessica Xi Liu, Vivian Chattier, Jill Krüsi, Andrea Allan, Sarah Maher, Lisa and Shannon, Kate 2015. Violence prevention and municipal licensing of indoor sex work venues in the Greater Vancouver Area: narratives of migrant sex workers, managers and business owners. Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 17, Issue. 7, p. 825.

    Krusi, A. Pacey, K. Bird, L. Taylor, C. Chettiar, J. Allan, S. Bennett, D. Montaner, J. S. Kerr, T. and Shannon, K. 2014. Criminalisation of clients: reproducing vulnerabilities for violence and poor health among street-based sex workers in Canada--a qualitative study. BMJ Open, Vol. 4, Issue. 6, p. e005191.

  • Canadian Journal of Law and Society / Revue Canadienne Droit et Société, Volume 28, Issue 1
  • April 2013, pp. 43-63

Rethinking the Prostitution Debates: Transcending Structural Stigma in Systemic Responses to Sex Work1

  • Chris Bruckert (a1) and Stacey Hannem (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 02 May 2013

As legal authorities consider the constitutionality of the laws surrounding prostitution in Canada, we have the opportunity to rethink some of the fundamental assumptions that have been made about sex work and the socio-legal responses to it. In this article we draw on the concept of structural stigma to analyze the stigmatic assumptions inherent in the Canadian laws and briefly describe their effect—the civic exclusion of sex workers. We then consider the ways in which these same assumptions of risk and immorality are reproduced in end-demand (partial criminalization), legalized (regulatory) models, and decriminalization. While the decriminalization of sex work is the response that relies on the least stigmatic assumptions, even the celebrated New Zealand model is not absent of moralization and “othering” discourse. Further reflection is required to conceptualize a policy approach that transcends stigmatic assumptions so as to respect the human and civil rights of sex workers.


Tandis que les autorités judiciaires examinent la constitutionalité des lois sur la prostitution au Canada, il est possible de revoir certaines hypothèses fondamentales ainsi que les mesures socio-juridiques envers le travail du sexe. Dans cet article, les auteures s’appuient sur la notion des inégalités structurelles afin d’analyser les suppositions stigmatisantes inhérentes à la réglementation canadienne et décrire brièvement leurs effets, spécifiquement l’exclusion civique des travailleurs du sexe. Par la suite, les auteures examinent comment ces mêmes hypothèses concernant le risque et l’immoralité sont reproduites dans les régimes de réglementation, soit la criminalisation partielle, les modèles réglementaires de légalisation, ou la décriminalisation réglementée. Bien que la décriminalisation du travail du sexe repose sur des suppositions qui sont moins stigmatisantes, même le populaire modèle de la Nouvelle-Zélande s’appui sur un discours moralisateur ainsi que sur l’idée de « l’autre ». Il est nécessaire d’approfondir la réflexion afin de conceptualiser des politiques pouvant transcender de telles suppositions dans le but de respecter les droits humains et civils des travailleurs du sexe.

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The authors wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the journal editor for their helpful comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Conference on Law and Society in Honolulu, Hawai’i, June 4–8, 2012.

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Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
  • ISSN: 0829-3201
  • EISSN: 1911-0227
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-law-and-society-la-revue-canadienne-droit-et-societe
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