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Partial Decrim or Pure Problem?

Newly elect vice president Kamala Harris built a strong portion of her career on anti trafficking efforts, supporting what she has publicly called decriminalization and safety for sex workers. Harris actually supports what can at best be deemed “partial” decriminalization, but is partial “decrim” an actual solution to the sex traffic v sex work paradigm; or purely a problem to the communities directly impacted by the LEAD style policy agenda?

Partial decriminalization, also known as  the “Nordic Model”, is defined as a punitive process involving the arrest and conviction of those paying for sex without convicting  the worker providing the service. This is defined as partial decriminalization, and a current example of this effort is the “Solicitation for Prostitution Registry”, a database now in effect as of 01 January 2021. Florida, for instance, has – as of January 25 – 77 men arrested for sexualized services, though it is unclear yet if they will be placed on the five year registry term.

With more specific defining points Derek Demeri, co-founder of New Jersey Red Umbrella Association (NJRUA), community advocate, and now attorney, explains in his forthcoming article Assumptions & Stereotypes: The History & (Misguided) Rationalizations for Prostitution-Related Offenses Under the Model Penal Code, what is now fashionably called the equality model:

“The decriminalization model must also be distinguished from the Nordic model, sometimes intentionally and misleadingly referred to as partial decriminalization or, more recently, the “equality model.” Under this system, sex workers are decriminalized—in theory—but patrons and third parties remain criminalized under the assumption that all sex workers are inherently sex trafficking victims. The system was first adopted in Sweden in 1999 and has since broadened to Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Iceland, France, Israel, and Norway.In the United States, the Manhattan District Attorney effectively adopted this position in April 2021 when it declined to continue prosecuting sex workers but made no changes in how it prosecuted patrons and third parties. A significant portion of prominent organizations in the United States that are dedicated to eradicating sex trafficking adopt the Nordic Model theory and trafficking’s conflation with prostitution”.

 In 2019 Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars Alex Andrews was quoted in Filter Magazine discussing analysis conducted by the Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs where a  staff affirmed sex worker advocates’ fears: The Database “will collect and centralize information relating to those convicted of soliciting prostitution, regardless of whether the person subject to the solicitation is a victim of human trafficking or not.” She added: “What keeps me up at night is the amount of identifying information made publicly available on these registries.” For SWOP Behind Bars organizer Alex Andrews, the legislation is “mostly an anti-sex-work bill and [has] nothing to do with trafficking.” There is a concern that sex workers who group together to stay safer could be accused of trafficking and placed on the publicly available registry.

Lobbyist organizations such as Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) leading in  the unified outreach efforts oppose the Nordic model, favoring the sex workers’ rights centered New Zealand Prostitution Reform Act (PRA 2003).  SWOP Behind Bars supports the collective styles of both the New Zealand model, and the 65,000 member strong Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Durbar), where the government acknowledged sex work collective has created their own community support systems, even starting their own micro-banking system. New Zealand  despite abolitionist arguments on the PRA decision is Tier 1 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) compliant.

Globally, sex worker advocates  such as Canadian Triple X and Global Network of Sex Work Projects / NSWP oppose the  Nordic model because of hurtful hidden language in the laws. Here in the United States, California’s Maxine Doogan of The ESPLER Project agrees. Especially since April  2018 implementation of The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) voices from diverse comunities of men, women and transgender workers and actvists have been heard. 

For individuals included in the database, SWOP Behind Bars is preparing to file a class action lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the law. ##

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