Criminalization of Sex Work Is Counterproductive, Shah Finds

Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah co-authored a Vox Dev article discussing the effects of criminalizing sex work in Indonesia. Previous studies in high-income countries have found that decriminalizing sex work has positive impacts on the health of sex workers and the general population. In a recent study, Shah analyzed the impact of criminalizing sex work in a low-income setting by interviewing female sex workers, their clients and their families after the government in East Java, Indonesia, announced that it would close all formal sex work locations. The closure caused the formal sex market to shrink, leading to increased rates of sexually transmitted infections and negatively impacting the well-being of sex workers who were forced out of work. Shah and her colleagues concluded that the criminalization of sex work is “counterproductive and can reverse the good work that many government health departments and NGOs are undertaking to reduce the spread of STIs and HIV/AIDS.”

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