Moving Beyond Supply and Demand Catchphrases: Assessing the uses and limitations of demand-based approaches in Anti-Trafficking

Authors: Ham, Julie

Moving Beyond Supply and Demand Catchphrases: Assessing the uses and limitations of demand-based approaches in Anti-Trafficking

Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), 2011.


The need to reduce ‘demand’ for trafficked persons is widely mentioned in the anti-trafficking sector but few have looked at ‘demand’ critically or substantively. Some ‘demand’-based approaches have been heavily critiqued, such as the idea that eliminating sex workers’ clients (or the ‘demand’ for commercial sex) through incarceration or stigmatisation will reduce trafficking. In this publication, we take a look at the links between trafficking and: (1) the demand for commercial sex, and (2) the demand for exploitative labour practices. We assess current approaches used to reduce each of these types of ‘demand’ and consider other long-term approaches that can reduce the demand for exploitative practices while respecting workers’ and migrants’ rights (e.g. enforcing labour standards, reducing discrimination against migrants, supporting sex workers’ rights).

‘Sex Trafficking’ as Epistemic Violence

Author: Chapman-Schmidt, Ben

Sex Trafficking’ as Epistemic Violence

Global Alliance Against Trafficking in women, Anti-Trafficking Review.


While the American Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA) has been heavily criticised by researchers and activists for the harm it inflicts on sex workers, many of these critics nevertheless agree with the Act’s goal of fighting sex trafficking online. This paper, however, argues that in American legal discourse, ‘sex trafficking’ refers not to human trafficking for sexual exploitation, but rather to all forms of sex work. As such, the law’s punitive treatment of sex workers needs to be understood as the law’s purpose, rather than an unfortunate side effect. This paper also demonstrates how the discourse of ‘sex trafficking’ is itself a form of epistemic violence that silences sex workers and leaves them vulnerable to abuse, with FOSTA serving to broaden the scope of this violence. The paper concludes by highlighting ways journalists and academic researchers can avoid becoming complicit in this violence.

The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation: 1999-2008

Swedish Institute, November 2010

The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services. An evaluation 1999-2008


Since 1 January 1999, it has been a crime to buy sexual services in SwedenIn contrast to previous measures against prostitution, the criminalization of the purchase of sexual services targets the demand, i.e., the sex buyer or the prospective sex buyer.

The aim of this report is to evaluate the application of the ban on the purchase of sexual services and its effects. The Swedish Institute investigated how the provision has worked in practice and its effects on the prevalence of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes in Sweden. 

Sex Workers Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy

Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police Affairs, op. cit.; Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare op. cit.; Dodillet & Östergren, op. cit.; P. Östergren (2003)

Sex Workers Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy

Author’s Introduction:

In this article I will not deal with the complex issue of whether prostitution is socially or otherwise desirable. Rather this article seeks to document some of the experiences and opinions of female sex workers in Sweden. I have been concerned by the fact that the very women who are at the center of prostitution policy are so rarely heard and so often feel discriminated against. If equal rights for women is important, then the experience of sex workers themselves must surely be central to our discussion, regardless of what position one takes on prostitution.

The law against procurement of sexual services (promotion or deriving profit from prostitution) and a recent law prohibiting the purchase of sexual services introduced in 1999 are the two main ways the Swedish state sees itself as “combating” prostitution. Swedish politicians and feminists are proud of the state’s prostitution policy. They insist that it has positive effects. Sex workers are of a different view. Most of the female Swedish sex workers I have interviewed voice a strong critique of their legal and social situation. They feel discriminated against, endangered by the very laws that seek to protect them, and they feel under severe emotional stress as a result of the laws.

The material in this article stems from my interviews, informal talks and correspondence with approximately 20 sexworkers since 1996, as well as published and broadcasted interviews with sexworkers in Swedish media. It is also based on interviews with people working with women selling sex to support a drug habit (most whom also are homeless). This article also contains a summary of reports conducted by Swedish authorities after the introduction of new legislation (the criminalization of clients)

Sex Work Law Reform in Canada: Considering Problems with the Nordic Model

Authors: Sandra Ka Hon Chu and Rebecca Glass

Sex Work Law Reform in Canada: Considering Problems with the Nordic Model

Alberta Law Review (2013) 51:1. [Canada, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA)]


The Nordic model is a piece of legislation, passed in Sweden in 1999, which criminalizes the purchase of sex. In Canada, exchanging sex for money is not illegal, but virtually every activity associated with prostitution is. Following the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Bedford v. Canada, the question of what type of legislation is most appropriate with respect to prostitution has become even more important. This article begins by evaluating the degree of success (or lack thereof) of the Nordic model. The article then goes on to determine whether legislation similar to the Nordic model would be constitutional if adopted in Canada.

Condoms as evidence of prostitution in the United States and the criminalization of sex work

Authors: Wurth, Margaret & Schleifer, Rebecca & McLemore, Megan & Todrys, Katherine. (2013).

Condoms as evidence of prostitution in the United States and the criminalization of sex work.

Journal of the International AIDS Society. 16. 18626. 10.7448/IAS.16.1.18626.


The vulnerability of sex workers and transgender women to HIV infection is a result of many factors including stigma, social and physical isolation, economic deprivation, and legal and policy environments that criminalize their behaviour. Recent systematic reviews have found high HIV prevalence among both populations, including an 11.8% pooled HIV prevalence among female sex workers in 50 countries and a 19.1% HIV prevalence among male-tofemale transgender women in 15 countries worldwide. Studies in the United States have also documented high HIV prevalence among people who report transactional sex and transgender populations.

Global epidemiology of HIV among female sex workers: influence of structural determinants

Shannon K, Strathdee SA, Goldenberg SM, Duff P, Mwangi P, Rusakova M, Reza-Paul S, Lau J, Deering K, Pickles MR, Boily MC.

Global epidemiology of HIV among female sex workers: influence of structural determinants.

Lancet. 2015 Jan 3;385(9962):55-71. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60931-4. Epub 2014 Jul 22. PMID: 25059947; PMCID: PMC4297548.


Female sex workers (FSWs) bear a disproportionately large burden of HIV infection worldwide. Despite decades of research and programme activity, the epidemiology of HIV and the role that structural determinants have in mitigating or potentiating HIV epidemics and access to care for FSWs is poorly understood. We reviewed available published data for HIV prevalence and incidence, condom use, and structural determinants among this group. Only 87 (43%) of 204 unique studies reviewed explicitly examined structural determinants of HIV. Most studies were from Asia, with few from areas with a heavy burden of HIV such as sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, and eastern Europe. To further explore the potential effect of structural determinants on the course of epidemics, we used a deterministic transmission model to simulate potential HIV infections averted through structural changes in regions with concentrated and generalised epidemics, and high HIV prevalence among FSWs. This modelling suggested that elimination of sexual violence alone could avert 17% of HIV infections in Kenya (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 1-31) and 20% in Canada (95% UI 3-39) through its immediate and sustained effect on non-condom use) among FSWs and their clients in the next decade. In Kenya, scaling up of access to antiretroviral therapy among FSWs and their clients to meet WHO eligibility of a CD4 cell count of less than 500 cells per μL could avert 34% (95% UI 25-42) of infections and even modest coverage of sex worker-led outreach could avert 20% (95% UI 8-36) of infections in the next decade. Decriminalisation of sex work would have the greatest effect on the course of HIV epidemics across all settings, averting 33-46% of HIV infections in the next decade. Multipronged structural and community-led interventions are crucial to increase access to prevention and treatment and to promote human rights for FSWs worldwide.

Public Health Crisis: The Impact of Using Condoms as Evidence in New York City

Public Health Crisis: The Impact of Using Condoms as Evidence in New York City

PROS Network/Sex Workers Project. April 2012

From the Conclusion:

While the sample size for this study was small, the results demonstrated that people in the sex trade in all five boroughs have experienced, observed, or heard of the confiscation of condoms and the use of condoms as evidence, and that this has affected the number of condoms they carry and the frequency with which they carry them, as well as in some instances, their condom use. These findings are corroborated by the DOHMH Study, which found an even higher rate of confiscation of condoms by police.

While many survey participants expressed confusion about the number of condoms that they are legally allowed to carry, the results of this study revealed that people can be harassed or arrested for possessing even one condom. Despite the fact that most prostitution cases do not go to trial, condoms are frequently vouchered and cited in criminal court complaints and supporting depositions as arrest evidence in prostitution‐related cases.

These policies and practices may have a dangerous impact on safer sex practices in general. Of the participants in the survey who are involved in the sex trade, 45.7% reported that they have not carried condoms out of fear that it may get them in trouble with the police or lead to their arrest. For all too many people in the sex trade, the importance of safe sex is outweighed by the importance of avoiding police harassment, humiliation, sexual and physical abuse, and arrest, as well as the potential indirect consequences of arrest (including vulnerability to HIV transmission and/or violence while in detention).