Change of legal status of sex work in Ukraine: public opinion, opinion of sex workers (sociological perspective)


The concepts of “decriminalization” and “legalization” of sex work are defined. Based on a sociological study, the attitudes of the Ukrainian public and sex workers to the potential change in the legal status of sex services in Ukraine is characterized. Authors analyse the public attitude toward the concepts and phenomena of “sex work” and “sex workers”, level of awareness of the population and sex workers about the current legislation in the scope of sex work regulation in Ukraine and the attitude to it, opinions on potential conditions of decriminalization and expected changes as a result of changes in the sex work legal status, level of interest of sex workers in the fact of decriminalization and legalization and their readiness for possible changes. These studies show an utterly predictable contrast between the attitudes, desires and expectations regarding potential changes in the legal status of sex work in Ukraine of the average Ukrainian and a sex worker – from disinclination and rejection of such changes by the first to the unreadiness and possible radiant hopes of the latter. Thus, 51% of Ukrainians oppose the revocation of penalty for the voluntary provision of paid sex services, while 93% of sex workers are interested in the revocation of such penalty. Modelling the situation where the penalty for sex work is revoked, the potential improvements suggested by sex workers are the following: safer working conditions and reduced risks of violence – 74%; the possibility of legal protection from the police – 67%, in court and prosecutor’s office – 64%; reduction of stigma at the level of society – 58%, at the level of self-esteem – 53%; expected reduction in health risks, including HIV/STIs – 49%. The appropriateness to form a public attitude to sex work as a type of entrepreneurial activity, which should be regulated by labour, civil, economic, financial and other branches of law, and to sex workers as those who are entitled to refuse (a client, employer, profession in general), appropriate working conditions and trade union or judicial protection, anonymity, social guarantees and pensions, self-organization, etc. are proved.

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