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Cult Health Sex. 2015;17(7):825-41. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2015.1008046. Epub 2015 Feb 17.

Violence prevention and municipal licensing of indoor sex work venues in the Greater Vancouver Area: narratives of migrant sex workers, managers and business owners.

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a Gender and Sexual Health Initiative, British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital , Vancouver , Canada.


Using a socio-ecological, structural determinants framework, this study assesses the impact of municipal licensing policies and related policing practices across the Greater Vancouver Area (Canada) on the risk of violence within indoor sex work venues. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 46 migrant/immigrant sex workers, managers and owners of licensed indoor sex work establishments and micro-brothels. Findings indicate that policing practices and licensing requirements increase sex workers' risk of violence and conflict with clients and result in heightened stress, an inability to rely on police support, lost income and the displacement of sex workers to more hidden informal work venues. Prohibitive licensing and policing practices prevent sex workers, managers and owners from adopting safer workplace measures and exacerbate health and safety risks for sex workers. This study provides critical evidence of the negative public health implications of prohibitive municipal licensing in the context of a criminalised and enforcement-based approach to sex work. Workplace safety recommendations include the decriminalisation of sex work and the elimination of disproportionately high fees for licences, criminal record restrictions, door lock restrictions, employee registration requirements and the use of police as licensing inspectors.


licensing; sex work; structural factors; venues; violence

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