Information

Challenging demand for prostitution: international evidence review

This rapid evidence review assesses and synthesises evidence on international approaches to challenging demand for prostitution.


Annex B: Quality assessment table

Author and Year

Category of evidence strength

Title

Country

Research Design

Themes

Limitations and gaps of research

Abel G. (2014)

NA*

Sex workers' utilisation of health services in a decriminalised environment.

New Zealand

Mixed methods study conducted in 2007 (Abel, Fitzgerald & Brunton below):
Cross-sectional survey with sex workers (n=772) and in-depth interviews with 58 sex workers. Conducted in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Napier between June 2006 and April 2007.

Focus on access to sexual health check-ups and clinics used by adults involved in prostitution.

*Details of the study provided under Abel, Fitzgerald & Brunton (2007) below.

Abel, G., Fitzgerald, L. & Brunton, C. (2007)

Medium

The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers

New Zealand

Funded by Health Research Council of New Zealand and Ministry of Justice.
Statutory evaluation of the Prostitution Reform Act (2003).

Mixed methods: Community based participatory research in partnership with the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective, including: exploratory focus groups, mapping exercise to identify numbers involved in prostitution, survey of 772 sex workers in Christchurch Auckland, Wellington, Napier and Nelson, in-depth interviews with adults involved (n=58), 2 sexual health promoters and an occupational health nurse, and content analysis of 11 submissions by Medical Officers of Health on proposed territorial local authority bylaws.

Estimation of numbers involved, socio-economic profiles of adults involved, entry into prostitution, health and safety, information held by adults involved, duration of involvement in prostitution

Conducted in partnership with third-party organisation with vested interests which may mean an over-representation of service users.

Purposive sampling which excluded non-English speaking adults involved, limiting the representativeness of the sample, an issue which the authors acknowledge.

Sampling conducted in 5 cities and therefore did not capture adults outside of these cities. Highly varied response rates across cities.

High levels of data-entry errors which were subsequently corrected.

Little specification of interview questions asked.

Data is dated.

Abel, G. & Healy, C. (2021)

NA

Sex Worker-Led Provision of Services in New Zealand: Optimising Health and Safety in a Decriminalised Context

New Zealand

Summary of research and community evidence on health and safety provisions in New Zealand.

Access to police to report assaults; interagency collaboration; access to information on safe practices

Summary of studies with limited information on research specifics.

Amnesty International (2016)

Medium

The Human Cost of 'Crushing' the Market: Criminalization of Sex Work in Norway.

Norway

Qualitative study: 54 interviews: 30 with women with experience of selling sex, representatives of agencies providing social support services, government agencies, lawyers, academics, and civil society organisations.

Sex worker experiences of policing, continued criminalisation and migrant worker experiences.

Questions asked not specified.

Range of views not clearly specified.

No evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

Amnesty International (2022)

Medium

We Live within a Violent System: Structural Violence against Sex Workers in Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Qualitative study: 30 interviews with individuals with experience of selling sex.

Also conducted interviews with 17 representatives of 13 civil society organisations, 3 lawyers, 9 academics and 2 medical doctors (video/phone interviews).

Sex worker experiences of policing and legislation, criminalisation, fears of exposure and stigma

Snowball sampling facilitated through third-party organisations critical of legislation.

Questions asked not specified.

No evaluation of the suitability of methods.

Interviews conducted remotely due to COVID-19 which may have hindered representativeness.

Armstrong L. (2017b)

Medium

From Law Enforcement to Protection? Interactions between Sex Workers and Police in a Decriminalized Street-Based Sex Industry.

New Zealand

Qualitative study drawing from interviews women and men involved in prostitution. Based on findings from a 3 year study with cisgender, female sex workers in Wellington and Christchurch. Included 34 in-depth interviews with 28 women, 17 semi-structured interviews with key informants with interest in sex worker safety (outreach workers, activists, social workers, police officers, church minister and local councilor)

Effects of decriminalisation on the relationship between street workers and police.

Trust building.

Snowball sampling facilitated by third-party organisation limiting representativeness.

Only accounts for street based workers.

Interview questions not clearly specified.

Range of views not clearly specified.

Armstrong L. (2018)

Medium

Stigma, Decriminalisation, and Violence against Street-Based Sex Workers: Changing the Narrative.

New Zealand

Same study as Armstrong (2017b), focusing, however, on findings related to stigma. Qualitative study drawing from interviews women and men involved in prostitution. Based on findings from a 3 year study with cisgender, female sex workers in Wellington and Christchurch. Included 34 in-depth interviews with 28 women, 17 semi-structured interviews with key informants with interest in sex worker safety (outreach workers, activists, social workers, police officers, church minister and local councillor)

Continued experiences of stigma and impacts on addressing violence.

Snowball sampling facilitated by third-party organisation, limiting representativeness.

Only accounts for street based workers. Author also notes a failure to account for the role of ethnicity.

Interview questions not clearly specified.

Range of views not clearly specified.

Berry A, and Frazer P. (2021)

Medium

How Sex Workers Understand their Experiences of Working in the Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland

6 semi-structured interviews with sex workers from different backgrounds and working since 2017. Examines evidence through an interpretative phenomenological analytical lens.

Sex worker attitudes to working under ROI legislation, psychological wellbeing, policing, relationships and stigma, client boundaries, precarious accommodation and discrimination experienced by participants.

Small number of interviews arranged through convenience sampling, limiting the generalisability of the findings.

Range of views not clearly specified.

Bisschop, P., Kastoryano, S. & van der Klaauw, B. (2017)

High

Street Prostitution and Crime

Netherlands

Difference-in-differences analysis of 25 Dutch cities between 1994-2011.

Examines effects of tippelzones on recorded and perceived crime.
Uses recorded crime statistics supplied by the Ministry of Justice and perceived crime data from Population Police Monitor.

Legalised street-prostitution zones, "tippelzones".

Impact on registered sexual abuse and rape, drug-related crime.

Relies on third party data.

Unable to differentiate between victim types, limiting the extent to which the effects observed can be said to be due to tippelzones or a wider set of adults involved.

Breslin, R. (2020)

Medium

Exploitation 'as usual': Emerging Evidence on the Impact of Covid-19 on Ireland's Sex Trade

Republic of Ireland

Mixed methods study examining advertising data on Escort Ireland within a 14 week period in 2020, policy statements, sex buyer reviews (n=1,300), qualitative semi-structured interviews with representatives of services.

Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Irish sex trade.

Over-representation of purchasers who leave reviews on escorting sites.

Analysis of advertising data may count single individual more than once, an issue the author acknowledges.

Author also acknowledges limits in the accuracy of user profile data.

Number of interviews not clearly specified.

Interviews with women involved not included, limiting the scope of the findings.

Interview questions not clearly specified.

Breslin, R., Latham, L. & O'Connor, M. (2021)

Medium

Confronting the Harm: Documenting the Prostitution Experiences and Impacts on Health and Wellbeing of Women Accessing the Health Service Executive Women's Health Service.

Republic of Ireland

Mixed methods study:
Analysis of sample of unique WHS user records between 2015 and 2019 (n=144). Descriptive statistics.
Analysis of medical records of WHS service users (n=50).

Semi-structured interviews with WHS staff (n=5). Interviews with service users (n=8)

Experiences and health impact of prostitution among WHS service users. Healthcare provisions of the WHS service.

Small number of interviews arranged through convenience sampling.

Lack of generalisability of findings due to data reflecting WHS service users only.
Reliance on third party data which may have gaps and errors, something the authors acknowledge.

Interview questions not clearly specified.

Brunovskis A, & Skilbrei, M. (2018)

Medium*

Individual or Structural Inequality? Access and Barriers in Welfare Services for Women Who Sell Sex

Norway

Qualitative study examining service provision in Norway.
Focuses on semi-structured and unstructured interviews with social workers (n=35) based in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim

Challenges facing welfare states in meeting needs of sex workers. Examines how vulnerability is understood and how it shapes service provision.

Little information on the diversity of opinions and their prevalence.

Interview questions not clearly specified

*Little information on the data collection methods in this specific publication limited an assessment of the research.

Campbell, R., Smith, L., Leacy, B., Ryan, M. and Stoica, B. (2020)

Medium

Not Collateral Damage: Trends in Violence and Hate Crimes Experienced by Sex Workers in the Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Mixed-methods study:
- Trend analysis of incident reports made by sex workers to UglyMugs.ie between 2015 and 2019 (n= 14,370 reports). Examines frequencies and increases/decreases in reports over time.
Supplemented with analysis of narrative responses boxes from reports.

Types of incidents reported by sex workers pre-and post-legislation, hate crime, confidence in reporting to police, continued stigmatisation of sex workers.

Authors acknowledge potential over-representation of workers who report via UglyMugs.ie as well as work-related victimisation.

Reliance on third-party data which had gaps e.g. no recording of nationality, something the authors acknowledge.

Lack of specification around qualitative coding framework used in the analysis.

Daalder, A. L. (2007)

N/A

Prostitution in the Netherlands Since the Lifting of the Brothel Ban

Netherlands

Summary of 3 studies conducted by the Research and Documentation Centre for second national evaluation. Commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. Included:

Study on municipal prostitution policy, its regulation and enforcement (survey distributed to all municipalities. 84% completion rate (n=385).

- Qualitative study comprising 67 interviews with municipal officials, service providers, women and men involved, business owners, police.
Fact-to-face interviews with 354 women and men involved and structured questionnaires.

-Desk based research, 29 interviews with informants, and human trafficking data to study non-legal prostitution.

Evaluates legislation and its implementation.

Summary of national evaluations.

Data is dated.

Drückler, S., van Rooijen, M. S., de Vries, H. J. C. (2020)

Medium

Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behavior among Male and Transgender Women Sex Workers at the Prostitution Outreach Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Netherlands

Quantitative study examining results of survey on substance abuse and sexual risk behaviour among male and transgender sex workers and conducted during routine STI screening at Prostitution and Health Centre in Amsterdam. Conducted between 2014 and 2015. 60.4% of eligible visitors participated (n=69)

Risk behaviours, illicit drug taking and STI positivity, health outreach

Examines experiences of those who have accessed the Prostitution and Health Centre in Amsterdam.

Could not account for frequency or quantity of substance abuse.

Conflates transgender women and cis-gender men which may limit a nuanced appreciation of the different experiences of both groups.

Ellison, G., Ní Dhónnaill, C. and Early, E. (2019)

Medium

A Review of the Criminalisation of Paying for Sexual Services in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Mixed methods evaluation of prost. legislation. Draws from 9 separate sources:

Quantitative survey with sex workers in NI who advertise on Adult Services Websites (n=199).

Quantitative trend analysis of 173,460 advertising profiles for commercial sex on Adult Services Websites.

Web scrape of data from 1,450 internet advertising platforms over 6-day period in 2019.

Quantitative client survey with respondents in ROI (n=1083) and NI (n=193).

Analysis of 2556 reports of violence and abuse on UglyMugs.ie from between 2012-2018.

13 narrative interviews with sex workers in NI.

3 interviews with sex worker support organisations.

3 interviews with officers in Police Service NI.

1 interview with senior prosecutors from Public Prosecution Service for NI.

Evaluates legislation and its implementation. Includes information on: Arrests and convictions; numbers and profiles of people involved in prostitution; purchase of sex and client profiles; safety and wellbeing of those involved; policing and prosecuting under new legislation.

Samples not representative due to difficulties in access, an issue the authors recognise.

Surveys distributed via third-party sites which may over-represent populations which access the sites in question or those with positive experiences. Authors acknowledge issues with representativeness

Small number of qualitative interviews.

No clear specification of questions asked in both the surveys and interviews.

Data scraping done with help from third party with vested interests.

Erikson J. (2019)

Medium

Institutions, Gendered Perceptions and Frames of Meaning: Explaining Strategic Choices of Women MPs in Swedish Prostitution Policy

Sweden

Qualitative study examining policy makers perceptions through a framing analysis of 14 interviews conducted in 2008.

Role of gendered perceptions on strategy adopted by policy makers in favour of criminalising demand.

Draw attention to need to appeal to general public, as well as key political stakeholders

Small number of interviews.

Variation in views was not clearly explained.

No evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

Erikson J. & Larsson, O. L. (2019)

Medium

Beyond Client Criminalization: Analyzing Collaborative Governance Arrangements for Combatting Prostitution and Trafficking in Sweden

Sweden

Analysis of policy documents, texts presented on official websites, reports, written/graphic sources and interviews (10 informant interviews with governors from Ministry of Justice, CABS, the NMT and the Platform). Interviews conducted in 2017. Focuses on period from 2009 until 2018

Collaborative approaches between public bodies and civil society organisations in Sweden.

Provides overview of collaborative bodies in Sweden.

Small number of interviews.

Questions asked were not specified.

Lack of information on data specifics of study.

Little evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

Little information on the diversity of opinions and their prevalence.

European Commission (2016)

Medium

Study on Gender Dimension of Trafficking in Human Beings

Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden

Primarily consisted of a review of literature and policy, in-depth case studies and high-level analysis of gender dimension of. human trafficking,

In depth case analysis involved the use of relevant documentary and internal material along with interviews with key actors (e.g. law enforcement officials, civil society representatives, service providers, labour inspectors, border officials and academics). In the case of Sweden a total of 10 individuals were interviewed. In the Netherlands 4 individuals were interviewed.

Gendered nature of human trafficking, demand reduction approaches to prostitution and their impacts on human trafficking.

Authors acknowledge that the absence of the views of adults involved is a major gap in the study.

Number of those interviewed is small.

The report primarily constitutes a literature review.

Lack of information on interview questions and sampling strategy.


Range of views not clearly specified.

Fredlund C, Dahlström Ö, Svedin C.G., Wadsby M., Jonsson L.S. & Priebe G. (2018)

Medium

Adolescents' motives for selling sex in a welfare state - A Swedish national study

Sweden

Exploratory factor analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis to identify groups of adolescents according to underlying motives for selling sex. Based on national questionnaire distributed in 2014. Number of participants = 5,839, response rate 59.7%.

Profiles of adolescents who have sold/selling sexual services in Sweden. Identifies a number of patterns behind reasons for selling. Shows that they are heterogeneous in regards to reasons and profiles.

40% of eligible respondents not accounted for in the study.

Excludes adolescents not in secondary schools and those below the age of 18.

Gaudy, T. and Le Bail, H. (2020)

N/A

Comparative Summary of Evaluation Reports on France's 2016 Prostitution Act

France

Summary of 3 reports:

National Gov. evaluation (2019) which assesses measures introduced by the Act and focuses on the views of police, administrative and judicial authorities, and Civil Society Organisations (CSO).

CSO Evaluation (2018). See details of study below under Le Bail, Giametta and Rassouw (2018). CSO Evaluation Report (2020) - Responds to National Evaluation (2019). Conducted by same groups as 2018 Le Bail et al. study outlined below and focuses on the experiences of sex workers following legislative change and in particular its impact on living and working conditions.

Key findings from evaluation reports on prostitution Act (national gov. evaluation and two civil society pieces).Groups these under a number of themes: criminalisation and prosecution of clients; impact of legislation on living conditions; exit programme; education and minors.

Reliance on secondary data.

Lack of information on data collection specifics of each study.

Working paper

Grönvall Y, Holmström C, Plantin L. (2021)

Medium

Doing trust work: The Purchase of Sex in a Swedish Context

Sweden

Semi-structured interviews with 29 Swedish men purchasing sex in 2018.
- Recruited through advertising on 2 different websites that promote escort services, a post on forum on one of these escort services, via Facebook, Twitter and ads in two local newspapers

Relationship between intimacy and purchase of sex. Note the significance attached to trust by purchasers.

Interviews facilitated through third-party adult services websites, limiting representativeness.

Variation in views was not clearly explained.

Authors acknowledge issues with bias/vested interests of respondents.

Questions asked were not specified.

Little evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

Hedlin, S. (2017)

Medium

Can Prostitution Law Reform Curb Sex Trafficking? Theory and Evidence on Scale, Substitution, and Replacement Effects

EU; Norway

Draws from EU level data on sex trafficking across EU countries (2008-2010).
- Develops an ordinal measure (index) of prost, laws. Examines correlation between index score and sex trafficking numbers.
- Difference-in-Differences analysis (Norway = treatment country; Sweden, Finland and Denmark = control group)

Examines the relationship between prostitution legislation in sex trafficking demand and supply across EU countries. Finds that a challenging demand approach is more closely aligned with reduced sex trafficking.

Reliance on limited third party data.

Author acknowledges limits in representativeness due to the data being based on reported sex trafficking.

Acknowledgement also of reliance on assumptions due to limited available data.

Huschke, S. & Schubotz, D. (2016)

Medium

Commercial sex, clients, and Christian morals: Paying for sex in Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Mixed methods approach which examined:

online self-completion surveys (n=446) and face-to-face semi-structured interviews with clients (n=10).

Data scraping to assess online profiles of sex workers.

Interviews with service providers and local councils. Triangulated with other data (19 interviews with sex workers and sex worker survey responses).

Data collected between May and August 2014.

Study on men who purchase sex.

Argue that experiences of those who purchase are shaped by local context.

Purchasers are heterogeneous.

Based on research conducted for DOJ report and published in 2014

Survey distributed via third-party adult services websites, limiting representativeness. Authors acknowledge that they cannot claim representativeness and note possible over-representation of in-door clients.

Questions asked were not specified.

No evaluation of the suitability of the methods

Huschke, S. and Ward, E. (2017)

N/A

Stopping the Traffick? The Problem of Evidence and Legislating for the 'Swedish model' in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Draws from mixed methods approach developed for Huschke et al. 2014 study conducted for DOJ:
- online surveys with sex workers (n=171) and clients (n=446)
- semi-structured interviews with sex workers (n=19), clients (n=10), officially identified victims of trafficking (n=2), and law enforcement and service providers in field (n=18).
See also Huschke & Schubotz above (2016).

Critique of NI legislation. Argue it was aimed at sending moral message rather than effectively reducing human trafficking. Criticise handling of DOJ 2014 study findings.

Based on research conducted for DOJ report conducted and published in 2014 and provides limited data collection specifics.

Jahnsen, S. & Skilbrei, M. (2018a)

Medium*

Leaving no Stone Unturned: the Borders and Orders of Transnational Prostitution.

Norway

Analytical piece based on qualitative evidence which comprises: observation, media discourse analysis and interviews with a wide range of stakeholders.

Norwegian regulatory migration practices which affect women in prostitution, particularly migrant sex workers and which continue to criminalise selling.

Little information on the diversity of opinions and their prevalence.

Interview questions not clearly specified and timeframe unclear.

No evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

* Does not provide much information on the data collection and analysis specifics.
Information on the data collection specifics available in other publications cited in the article.

Jonsson S, Jakobsson N. (2017)

High

Is buying sex morally wrong? Comparing attitudes toward prostitution using individual-level data across eight Western European countries.

UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden

Comparative study of attitudes across 8 countries. Based on survey distributed across countries in 2014. Total n=16,948, response rate = 37%.
OLS Regression.

Considers the relationship between prostitution regime and attitudes towards the acceptability of the purchase of sex.

Online survey based on self-selection, limiting representativeness of the sample for each country, an issue authors acknowledge.

Unable to account for causality of the relationship between regime and attitudes to purchase.

Krumrei-Mancuso E. (2017).

Medium

Sex Work and Mental Health: A Study of Women in the Netherlands

Netherlands

Quantitative study examining survey data (n=88) with women engaged in prostitution. Bivariate correlation analyses, multivariate analyses of covariance (MANCOVA) and regression analysis

Characteristics of prostitution and quality-of-life factors related to depression and pros-traumatic stress.

Small survey sample

Online survey limiting representativeness.


Cross-sectional study meaning causality could not be accounted for.

Vested interests not declared.

Kuosmanen, J. & de Cabo, A. (2018)

Medium

Men Selling Sex to Men in Sweden: Balancing Safety and Risk

Sweden

Analysis of small internet survey (n= 156). Primarily analyse cross-tabs and frequencies. Conducted between 2011 and 2015.

Perceptions among men who sell sex to men of perceived risks of activity and experiences of actual denigration, threats, and violence in their relations with customers. Also discuss self-defense strategies used for protection

Survey distributed via third-party site which may over-represent populations which access the site.

Authors acknowledge sample is not representative.

Online survey based on self-selection and reporting on past experiences.

Le Bail, Giametta, and Rassouw (2018)

Medium

What Do Sex Workers Think about the French Prostitution Act? A Study of the Impact of the Law from 13 April 2016 Against the Prostitution System in France.

France

Collaborative evaluation of impact of the act on sex workers' living and working conditions. Primarily a qualitative study (70 semi-structured interviews with sex workers and 24 interviews with grassroots organisations and focus groups and workshops with 38 sex workers between Jan 2016 and Feb 2018).
Supplementary quantitative part of the study (583 responses via 9 organisations who distributed questionnaire between Jan and Feb 2018)

Assesses the impact of the 2016 act on working and living conditions from the point of view of sex workers and grassroots organisations. Main themes: increased precarity, intimidation and reporting, local implementation, stigma, violence, health and exit programme

Authors acknowledge difficulties in accessing a representative sample given the "hidden" nature of sex work as well as the over-representation of street based workers.

Lack of generalisability due to the distribution of the survey being facilitated by grassroots organisations (accounts therefore represent the views of sex workers who access/participate in the services in question)

Online survey based, limiting representativeness of the sample.

Leek, J. & van Montfort, A. (2004)

Medium

'Convenient Local Policymaking for Inconvenient Issues? The Establishment of Brothels in the Netherlands'

Netherlands

Survey across 200 municipalities. 90% agreed to take part (n=180) out of 489 Dutch municipalities.

Dynamics between local and national government and success rate for local gov. to draw up policies pertaining to socially controversial issues that live up to central government expectations. Prostitution as a case study.

Accounts for under half of all municipalities, limiting generalizability of findings.

Cross-sectional study meaning causality could not be accounted for.

Little evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

Data is dated.

McGarry, K & Ryan, P. (2020)

Medium

Sex Worker Lives under the law: A Community Engaged Study of Access to Health and Justice in Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Participatory action research. Focus groups with 26 sex workers based in 4 cities: Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.
Commissioned by HIV Ireland and conducted by Irish Sex Work Research Network (ISWRN) and Sex Workers' Alliance Ireland (SWAI) between June 2019 and May 2020.

Impact of legislation on health, well-being and safety of sex workers.

Small sample.

Snowball sampling facilitated through third-party organisations critical of legislation.

Lack of generalisability due to subjective nature of data collection process.

Variation in views was not clearly explained.

McMenzie, L., Cook, I. R., and Laing, M. (2019)

Medium

Criminological Policy Mobilities and Sex Work: Understanding the Movement of the 'Swedish Model' to Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Mainly theoretical piece but draws from semi-structured interviews with policy makers, advocates and mobilisation of Swedish model in NI (n=7) and in Sweden (n=5). Also employs narrative analysis of a variety of texts.

Policy transfer of Swedish model to NI. Examines through a policy mobilities lens.

Small sample.

Author acknowledges partiality of the data.

Lack of information on data collection specifics.

Little information on the diversity of opinions and their prevalence.

O'Connor, M. (2017)

Medium

Choice, agency consent and coercion: Complex issues in the lives of prostituted and trafficked women

Republic of Ireland

In depth interviews with prostituted and trafficked women in Ireland (n=7 including 3 suspected victims of trafficking). Adopts an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
Access was facilitated by specialist organisations.

Questions clear distinction between coercion and trafficking. Examines trauma experienced by women: dehumanisation, entrapment, deception.

Small number of interviews arranged through third party. Author acknowledges the lack of representativeness

Questions asked not specified.

O'Connor, M. & Breslin, R. (2020)

Medium

Shifting the Burden of Criminality: An analysis of the Irish sex trade in the context of prostitution law reform

Republic of Ireland

Mixed methods review of legislation. Includes:
Analysis of service user data from Ireland's two largest providers for women in prost. (2015-2018)
Qual. semi-structured interviews with key frontline workers.
Case studies of women in prost. compiled in collaboration with frontline service Ruhama.
Service user records of (n=144) women currently in prost. accessing HSE (Ireland's Health Service Executive) specialist Women's Health Service (WHS)
Qual. semi-structured interviews with senior members of GNPSB – Garda National Protective Services Bureau.
-Profiles of advertised women and reviews posted by sex buyers on Ireland's largest online prost. advertiser (Escort Ireland).
Official recorded crime stats for prostitution provided by the CSO (Central Stats Office).
Press reporting of Garda actions against sex buyers and org. of prostitution
Press reporting of violent assaults against women in prostitution.

Profiles of women involved in prost. and accessing support services; buyer demands, harm, impact; access and referrals to support services; organised sex trade, criminality and violence; impact of legislation on enforcement; women's experiences of police and law.

Authors acknowledge difficulties in accessing a representative sample.

Bulk of data collected during in 2020 during Covid-19 pandemic which limited access and collection methods and meant interviews with women involved were not possible.

Reliance on third party data collection and access from organisations with vested interests.

No clear specification of questions asked in interviews or numbers of interviews.

Possible overlaps in data in user records.

Olsson, N. (2021)

High

The implementation of Sweden's prostitution law at the local level

Sweden

Explorative analysis of court records and proceedings related to the purchase of sex (n=1430) from across 24 district courts and 32 local public prosecuting offices covering 95% of the jurisdiction between 2011 and 2015. Examined descriptive statistics (frequencies and cross-tabs)

Everyday application of legislation. Considers arrests made and prosecutions, and local and national similarities and differences across Sweden.

Reliance on third party records which did not provide a full account of how police identify possible offences and conduct investigations.

Short time frame (4 years) when considering the amount of years the legislation has been in operation.

OSCE (2021)

Medium

Discouraging the Demand that Fosters Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation

19 OSCE participating states including: France, Ireland, Norway and Sweden,

Primarily consisted of a review of literature on international obligations, legal instruments, national legislation and statutes.
Also analyses data and submissions provided by national governments, international organisations and civil society organisations.

International approaches to discouraging demand for human trafficking and prostitution. Legal obligations to discourage demand.

Does not include any insights into practitioner views.

Primarily reviews literature and country submissions.

Lack of information on the analysis framework used.

Pérez-y-Pérez M. (2016)

Medium

Mapping the Health and Safety of Female Sex Workers after the Prostitution Reform Act (2003): Human Services Perspectives and Responses.

New Zealand

Qualitative research using Christchurch as a case study. Conducted between 2010/2011 with representatives from 13 NGOs, Christchurch City Council and the government public health department. Analyses through a Foucauldian governmentality lens.

Governance practices of "sex markets" and role of NGOs as regulators.
Harm minimisation approaches to governance.

Questions asked not specified.

Variation in views not clearly explained.

Lack of evaluation of the suitability of the methods.

Unclear how many research participants were involved.

PROUD & Aidsfonds - Soa Aids Nederland (2018)

Medium

Sex Work, Stigma and Violence in the Netherlands

Netherlands

Mixed method participatory research study including questionnaire (n=299), 4 focus groups and 19 in depth interviews between January and September 2017. Total of 308 participants

Experiences of violence women and men involved

Snowball sampling, limiting representativeness.

Little evaluation of suitability of methods.

Lack of specification of questions asked.

Range of views from qualitative interviews not sufficiently specified.

Radačić, I. (2017)

Medium

New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective—An Example of a Successful Policy Actor.

New Zealand

Qualitative study conducted in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch between February and early March 2016. Included 16 interviews with NZPC members, 1 interview with a former MP, 1 interview with a former detective superintendent and 3 academics.

Role of the NZPC in the decriminalisation of prostitution.

Over-representation of NZPC members.

Lack of specification of questions asked.

Little evaluation of suitability of methods.

Variation in views was not clearly explained.

Ryan, P. & McGarry, K. (2021)

Medium

'I miss being honest': Sex Workers' Accounts of Silence and Disclosure with Health Care Providers in Ireland.

Republic of Ireland

Participatory Action Research. Focus groups with 21 female sex workers based in 4 cities: Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. Commissioned by HIV Ireland and conducted by Irish Sex Work Research Network (ISWRN) and Sex Workers' Alliance Ireland (SWAI) between June 2019 and May 2020. See McGarry and Ryan for insights into broader project.

Sex worker interactions with health service providers. Particular focus on women's disclosure of sex work when accessing services.

Small number of participants.

Focus groups facilitated through third party critical of legislation.

Lack of generalisability due to subjective nature of data collection process.

Variation in views was not clearly explained.

St Denny, E. (2020)

Medium

The Gender Equality Potential of New Anti-Prostitution Policy: A Critical Juncture for Concrete Reform

France

Systematic assessment of France's new prost. policy framework on a national scale. Main methods used: documentary and historical analysis (1000 media and policy documents from between 2010-2019; 2000 other texts 1946-2016) and 8 qualitative interviews with women's rights delegates responsible for implementing key aspects of prost. policy (between June and Dec. 2018).

Assesses the implementation of the 2016 act and the policy's current and potential impact on women's rights and gender equality. Primary focus on policy around support services for women exiting prostitution.

Small number of interviewees

Questions asked not specified

Variation in views was not clearly explained

No evaluation of the suitability of the methods

SWAI (2020)

Medium

I feel targeted and I can't feel safe: Peer research of sex workers' experiences under the law

Republic of Ireland

Participatory actions research. Draws from quantitative and qualitative data from survey of sex workers (n=24) conducted in 2019.

Thematic analysis.

Sex worker experiences of working conditions under legislation.

Small sample size.

Snowball sampling facilitated through third-party organisations critical of the legislation and social media which limits the generalisability of the findings, something the authors acknowledge.

Lack of specification of qualitative methods used.

Sweeney L., Taylor L. & Molcho M. (2020)

Medium

Sex workers access to health and social care services: A social justice response

Republic of Ireland

Interviews with 8 service providers in the field of women's health and social care in the West of Ireland.

Thematic analysis

Awareness of women's involvement in sex work by service providers; identified barriers to health services according to providers; legislative and political barriers to access to support services

Small number of interviews which only account for service providers based in West Ireland.

Based on research conducted prior to 2016.

No clear specification of questions asked in interviews.

Variation in views were not clearly explained.

Thorburn N. (2017)

Medium

Practitioner knowledge and responsiveness to victims of sex trafficking in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

New Zealand

Analysis of 130 online qualitative surveys distributed to medical and social service practitioners, interviews with survivors and key informant practitioners.

Frontline medical and social service practitioners' perspectives of and experiences with domestic sex trafficking.

Convenience sampling limiting the representatives of the study findings.

Low response rate which may be due to a lack of direct knowledge of the subject among practitioner, an issue the author acknowledges..

Small survey sample.

Tokar, A., Osborne, J., Hengeveld, R., Lazarus, J. V. & Broerse, J. E. W. (2020)

Medium

'I don't want anyone to know': Experiences of obtaining access to HIV testing by Eastern European, non-European Union Sex Workers in Amsterdam, the Netherlands'

Netherlands

Qualitative study: Analysis of 19 semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders with experience of working with sex workers:, 5 in depth interviews with Eastern European non EU migrant female sex workers, field observations of escorting agency, and 12 in-depth narrative interviews with key stakeholders. Conducted between 2015-2017.

Vulnerabilities of female migrant sex workers from Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine in relation to access to HIV testing. Barriers to HIV testing, migration and sex work policy, stigma, trust, language, healthcare experiences, and risk behaviour.

Range of views not clearly specified.

Purposive and convenience sampling through online third party sites and NGOs, limiting representativeness.

Verhoeven, M. & van Gestel, B. (2017)

Medium

Between Visibility and Invisibility: Sex Workers and Informal Services in Amsterdam

Netherlands

Qualitative study: analysis of police files of 12 criminal investigations into human trafficking (2006-2010); interviews with police investigators and public prosecutors.

Informal services and networks within sex industry in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Examines impact on autonomy of sex workers.

Reliance on third party records and second hand information.

Lack of specification of questions asked and number of interviews conducted

Little evaluation of the methods used.

Range of views not clearly specified.

Verscheijden, M. M. A., Woestenberg, P. J., Götz, H. M., van Veen, M. G., Koedijk, F. D. H. & van Betham, B. H. B. (2015)

High

Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Female Sex Workers Tested at STI Clinics in the Netherlands, 2006-2013

Netherlands

Quantitative study: analysis of all consultations submitted by all STI clinics between 2006-2013 of female sex workers older than 18 years or older.

Logistic regression analyses.

STI positivity rate and determinants of an STI diagnosis among female sex workers tested by STI clinics in the Netherlands

Limited to providing insights on service users and not the broader population of adults involved.

Reliant on third party data.

Vuolajärvi N. (2019)

Medium

Governing in the Name of Caring—the Nordic Model of Prostitution and its Punitive Consequences for Migrants Who Sell Sex.

Sweden, Norway and Finland

Ethnographic study conducted between 2012 and 2018. Includes 195 semi-structured interviews with sellers, police, officials and social workers.

Tensions between migration laws and Sexual Purchase Acts. Lack of support for migrants who constitute majority of people involved in prostitution in the countries.

Lack of generalisability due to subjective nature of data collection process

No evaluation of the suitability of the methods

No clear specification of the questions asked in interviews.

Little information on the range of views encountered.

Wagenaar H. (2016)

N/A*

Why Prostitution Policy (Usually) Fails and What to Do about It?

21 countries; and Austria and the Netherlands

Discussion of results of 2 comparative studies of prost. policy in Europe: one comparison of 21 countries using most-different systems design; the other an in-depth comparison of Austria and the Netherlands using most similar systems design.

Continuity in approach to regulation of prostitution.
-Limited impact of control of sex workers on prevalence of prostitution.
-Human and labour rights of sex workers.
- Challenges in the study of prostitution.
-Collaborative governance

*Lack of information on data collection specifics of each study. See study below for details of one of the studies.

Wagenaar, H. Altink, S. & Amesberger, H. (2013)

Medium

Final Report of the International Comparative Study of Prostitution Policy: Austrian and the Netherlands.

Netherlands, Austria, Sweden

Mixed methods study: commissioned by Platform 31 in collaboration with 3 Dutch partner cities Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht.-Participant observation; interviews with 44 sex workers, and 6-8 administrators, professionals and police officials for every city; advertisement analysis, and demographics

Impacts of policy on prostitution and working conditions. Provides overview of sex worker demographics, policies and legislative and service provision.

Range of views not clearly specified.

Authors acknowledge difficulties in establishing a reliable estimate of the number of women and men involved and a non-biased sample.

Lack of information on interview questions.

Data is dated.

Wahab S. & Abel G. (2016)

Medium

The Prostitution Reform Act (2003) and Social Work in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work

New Zealand

Qualitative study examining social workers' (n=15) perceptions. Conducted in 2012-2013 in Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland.

Social workers' perceptions of sex work/ers, decriminalisation and its influence on individuals within the sex industry.

Purposive sampling with participants who were "information-rich" limiting the generalisability of the findings.

Lack of information on interview questions.

Variation in views not clearly specified.

Wouter, J., Denters B, Need A, & van Gerven M. (2017)

High

Lifting the Ban on Dutch Brothels: Do Local Social Needs and Local Political Demands Matter for Municipal Prostitution Policies

Netherlands

Examines by-laws introduced by all Dutch municipalities in 2000 (n=537).

Descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Extent to which Dutch municipalities have adapted new local prostitution regulations to local needs following decentralisation in 2000.

Study suggests local needs and demands played no major role in explaining local policy adaptations.

Accounts for adaptations made in by-laws but provides limited insights into practice.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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