History From Below

Amnesty International’s recent decision to supportthe legalization of sex work is a controversial one. The group reasoned that because these individuals lived outside of a licit society, they were more vulnerable to physical abuse: “Sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse.” In order to bring these men and women out of the shadow economy and into the light, Amnesty International has supported the call for “consensual sex work” to be made legal in order that workers may be more legally protected from trafficking, violence, and exploitation. What interests me most–and is the question I posed to my Roman law students today–is whether the legalization of prostitution would, in fact, serve to decrease violence and discrimination towards sex workers.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 10.12.16 AM Mosaic of a Roman courtesan and a modern representation of a prostitute in a Norwegian ad campaign, which visually represented the…

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