Aziza Ahmed argues against zero-tolerance prostitution laws:
Abolitionists typically insist that criminalization is imperative. Some have pushed for making the sale of sex illegal. Others, however, including feminists who oppose prostitution, support a different model: outlawing only the purchase of sex. They argue that criminalizing clients will force the sex industry out of business, liberating sex workers but not treating them as criminals. …
In reality, there is no convincing evidence that punishing “johns” decreases the incidence of commercial sex. Troublingly, Sweden’s sex workers report that criminalization has simply driven the sex industry underground, with dangerous consequences: Clients have more power to say when and where they want to have sex, inhibiting workers’ ability to protect themselves if need be.
She proposes treating sex work like other forms of legitimate labor:
Today, a camp of legal experts contends that the many problems sex workers face can be addressed with labor laws. If sex work were considered a legitimate economic sector, the argument goes, where work conditions, fair wages, injury compensation, and other basic employment issues were matters of law, the sex industry and those within it would be less exposed to violence and other harms. Under a labor model, U.S. sex workers could report health risks at brothels to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They could unionize and lobby for stronger protections against police harassment. In the long run, they would be viewed as citizens like any other, and their industry as a safe and acceptable one.