Given current realities, how would the full decriminalization of sex work be accomplished in the United States? Realistically, it would involve not just many tactics and strategies, and the influence of events in other countries, but many political changes. While I have no crystal ball, I do have both an active imagination and a touch of whimsy. So, without further ado, here is a proposed timeline of how that might take place in the near future …
- After considerable consultation and pressure, Canada’s government introduces a bill to decriminalize sex work along the lines of the New Zealand model; meanwhile, police in several Canadian cities and provinces declare that they will adopt the guidelines used in British Columbia’s cities of Victoria and Vancouver, where sex worker safety is given priority over enforcement of laws criminalizing various aspects of the sex industry (these guidelines are called the Victoria-Vancouver Protocol).
- Increasing political scandals in the United States leads to a massive upset in Congressional elections; the Republican Party collapses, displaced by the Libertarians, while the Democrats achieve a plurality and form a coalition with Greens and independents to elect Linda Sanchez as Speaker.
- South Australia becomes the second state in that country, and the third jurisdiction globally, to enact full decriminalization of sex work.
- Laura Lee wins her lawsuit against Northern Ireland’s version of the Swedish model, but reform is stalled by Stormont’s government
- Police chiefs in three U.S. municipalities adopt the Victoria-Vancouver Protocol, also applying its principles around drug possession and usage.
- Canadian parliament passes full decrim, with specific requirements that municipal and provincial governments “engage in full consultation with peer-led sex worker organizations regarding formulation and implementation of any particular regulations of the sex industry.”
- After lengthy internal debate, U.S. Green Party changes platform to endorse full decrim, and new leadership releases formal apology to sex worker community.
- Congress begins hearings on articles of impeachment, but Donald Trump is forced to resign for “health reasons”; President Mike Pence resigns after only a few months, declaring current political situation unworkable; House Speaker Linda Sanchez is sworn in as President, Senator Cory Booker quickly confirmed as V.P.
- Debates rage in United States over immigration, drugs, and prostitution; police in three more cities adopt “Vic-Van” protocol.
- Sanchez and Booker elected by plurality of popular vote and slim Electoral College majority.
- Australian state of Victoria adopts full decrim.
- Police in five Rhode Island municipalities consider adopting “Vic-Van” while decrim bill is introduced in that state’s legislature; polls indicate support for decrim is at 62 percent; radical feminist Donna Hughes threatens to immolate herself on state capitol steps, prompting Libertarian Party leader Tania Markowitz to respond: “Burn, baby, burn!” and pro-decrim activists embrace this as a slogan; after decrim is passed overwhelmingly, Hughes retires from her post at the University of Rhode Island and disappears from public view.
- Irish government commission declares that republic’s version of Swedish model “an abysmal failure” and recommends reforms; radical feminists and Catholic nuns criticize report and push for law to be retained.
- Proposals for decrim introduced and debated in five Latin American countries.
- San Francisco becomes first major city to adopt “Vic-Van” while California governor Kamala Harris declares “all-out war against commercial sexual exploitation”.
- Norway’s government repeals sex-purchase ban and adopts legalization scheme; sex worker organization PION praises move while pledging to continue fight for full decrim.
- Netherlands adopts law allowing full decrim in certain cities (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht) while giving other municipalities option for stricter regulation or prohibition.
- Radical feminists invade legal Provincetown brothel and assault several people, in name of “resisting violence against women”; incident leads to major shift in U.S. public opinion on sex work.
- Several significant setbacks for anti-prostitution movement, as numerous leaders are either exposed as frauds or indicted on criminal charges ranging from bribery to abduction and assault.
- France abandons Swedish model and adopts legalization scheme; STRASS and other sex worker groups commend “positive step” but recommit themselves to achieve full decrim.
- Ireland’s Dail retains Swedish model by one vote, provoking massive march in Dublin and prolonged occupation of several churches by sex workers.
- After election of left-of-center coalition government in Bundestag, German Greens introduce decrim bill crafted with input by sex workers.
- Brazil, Thailand, and two Indian states adopt full decrim.
- One-fifth of U.S. municipal police departments have adopted “Vic-Van” protocol.
- Swedish sex workers simultaneously occupy three churches in Stockholm, Malmö, and Uppsala; supporters ring churches to prevent police from entering to evict and arrest occupiers; within two weeks, five more churches are occupied.
- Alliance, Green, and Social Democratic Labour parties form coalition government in Northern Ireland; begin debate on decrim proposal.
- Netherlands passes reform to decriminalize outcall and incall sex work nationwide.
- In U.S. Presidential election, decrim becomes major issue in primaries; Sanchez and Booker re-elected, but Greens and Libertarians make major gains in Congress and state legislatures.
- In California legislature, Greens and Libertarians co-sponsor bill calling for full decrim; Governor Harris vows to veto.
- Lawsuits, bills, and other actions for decrim continue in many other states, as almost one-third of municipal police departments embrace Vic-Van.
- British Labour party leads coalition government with Liberal Democrats and Greens; LibDems introduce full decrim bill in House of Commons.
- Vote of no confidence in Sweden over government’s handling of church occupations and protests leads to snap elections; newly formed Sex Worker Rights Party gains fourteen seats, holds balance of power in formation of center-right government, and negotiates peaceful end to occupations.
- Demand Abolition closes its doors.
- Decrim debated in Cambodian parliament.
- German Bundestag passes decrim bill, to be implemented in stages.
- Western Australia and Tasmania pass decrim laws.
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women forced to declare bankruptcy and dissolve.
- Scottish parliament begins debate on decrim bill.
- Having achieved piecemeal gains, sex workers in India form political party with allies to push for full decrim and other reforms nationwide.
- South Africa passes law devolving decision on commercial sex to provincial legislatures; Gauteng and Western Cape adopt laws allowing sex work in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria; other provinces either retain previous criminalization scheme or stall in making any reforms; sex workers file suit in Constitutional Court.
- California passes decrim over veto of Governor Harris.
- New York passes bill allowing decrim, but with strong local control, leading to hodgepodge of restrictions; three sex workers and two clients file lawsuits.
- Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland almost simultaneously pass decrim.
- Libertarians and Greens in U.S. Congress lead effort on major reforms in drug policy, commercial sex, civil asset forfeiture, and other issues.
- U.K. passes decrim bill, to be implemented in stages.
- Sweden reforms laws around sex work, based on Norwegian law; Rose Alliance and Sex Worker Rights Party accept proposal as “realistic compromise” but vow to continue push for full decrim.
- Icelandic sex workers occupy government offices; Prime Minister personally engages in negotiations for several days, and agrees to introduce reforms.
- Decrim passed in Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming; eight more lawsuits filed by sex workers and sex work clients.
- Iceland adopts full decrim; ban on striptease is also lifted, with strong labor protections introduced based on input from exotic dancers.
- Scotland joins rest of United Kingdom in passing full decrim.
- U.S. Presidential election, with several candidates expressing support or openness to decrim; deadlock in Electoral College throws final decision to Congress, which chooses Cory Booker for President, independent geolibertarian Valerie Chang for V.P.
- Australia’s Northern Territory tables decrim proposal, leading to protests in its capital; Queensland passes decrim measure.
- South Africa passes full decrim of sex work nationwide.
- Split decisions in U.S. appellate courts bring lawsuits on sex worker rights to Supreme Court; in 6-3 ruling, criminalization of consensual adult commercial sex declared unconstitutional.
Again, don’t take this (too) seriously. I claim no powers of precognition. But one may always hope.