Decriminalisation and stigma

Gillian Abel and Lisa Fitzgerald

in Taking the crime out of sex work

Published by Policy Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9781847423344
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303664 | DOI:
Decriminalisation and stigma

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This chapter examines the emotional health of sex workers. It draws on and develops theories of stigma as well as examining how sex workers have been able to actively manage stigma through constructing alternative identities. Stigmatisation of sex workers arises from negative social reactions to their occupations. Within the context of moral discourses, sex workers are classified as deviant and not conforming to the norms of the society. For women specifically, stigmatisation is more prevalent as women are thought to have female passivity within the sexual domain. By identifying the norm, labelling differences, stereotyping, connecting the labelled to undesired traits, and separating them into ‘others’, the mechanisms of stigmatisation and discrimination are reinforced. This process of stigmatisation and discrimination leads to the loss of status and the reproduction of inequalities. Through the exercise of power and reinforcement of inequalities, the inequalities in public health, employment options outside the industry, and other essential services, are specifically severe for sex workers. In this chapter, the three various types of stigma – felt stigma, courtesy stigma, and enacted stigma – are used to determine the discrimination felt by the participants discussed within it. These stigmas highlight that even after decriminalisation of prostitution, stigmatisation and discrimination are still prevalent.

Keywords: emotional health; social stigma; theories of stigma; stigma; stigmatisation; discrimination; loss of status; inequalities

Chapter.  9571 words. 

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