Main Article Content
Sex workers face a myriad of intersecting health and safety concerns including HIV transmission, access to health and social services, violence via clients, police harassment, social stigma and economic insecurity. A growing demand for the universal decriminalization of sex work has garnered significant media attention and has brought about heavy public scrutiny. The countries of South Africa, Sweden and New Zealand all employ different legal approaches to the sex trade, subscribing to prohibition, partial decriminalization and legalization, respectively. The impact of the three legislative models on the health and wellbeing of sex workers vary accordingly. This article considers South Africa, Sweden and New Zealand as proxies of the three legal paradigms, assesses the varying outcomes on the lives of female sex workers, and concludes that the overwhelming body of evidence points to a positive association between decriminalization and improved health and working conditions for sex workers. This article appraises the impacts of the various systems, analyzes pervasive themes and provides a brief assessment of innovative approaches used to address social stigma and health disparities.