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Different Laws, Same Practices? Translation of Prostitution Policy into every day Police Actions in the Red Light District

Migration
Regulation
Political Sociology
Mixed Methods
Policy Implementation
Power
State Power
Mira Fey
University of Applied Science (HETS) Fribourg
Mira Fey
University of Applied Science (HETS) Fribourg

Abstract

“Despite different laws and regulations concerning prostitution policy, do everyday practices of law-enforcement agencies such as the police towards sex workers actually differ in different settings? If not, which other forces affect these everyday practices?” These are the leading questions of this paper and my overall PhD research. I argue that the everyday practices of police officers in neighborhoods with a visible presence of street sex workers in countries in which prostitution is legal or tolerated do not differ significantly even though different rules and regulations exist. Instead, dominating attitudes towards migration become a determining factor. These can be used by police officers to justify harsher control than allowed by the regulatory framework, claiming either to fight trafficking of women or to enforce working permits and taxes for migrants. Second, abolitionist advocacy groups can claim to speak for migrant sex workers who do not have access to local sex worker organizations and are uninformed about their rights because they sometimes do not speak the local language; they can easily be portrayed as victims of trafficking and exploitation which benefits aforementioned police actions further. Third, new richer residents in gentrified inner-city neighborhoods can use anti-migration rhetoric to demand the police to drive out street sex workers from the area. Ethnographic research including interviews and observation in the red-light district in Geneva is carried out to answer the leading questions of this research. This includes the police, street sex workers, and other migrants involved in street drug deals as a reference point to compare police behavior towards migrants. Textual analysis of the regulatory framework as well as of citizens’ initiatives supplements the collected data.