Travail du sexe et discours sur la réduction des méfaits – Picture has been edited by Les 3 sex* – Fair use

Sex work and harm reduction discourse • Reflection guide

25 May 2021

Tool's Title
Sex work and harm reduction discourse • Reflection guide [➦] 

✎ English
✎ French

Target Audience
• Health, social services and education professionals

• Action research project
• Practical guide


Conception by
Tara Santini
Alana Klein 
Stella, l’amie de Maimie
Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network

Release Date and Last Update
2020 (no update as of the review date) 


Using the word “harm” in discussions around sex work may suggest that sex work itself is harmful. As a result, people who seek to eradicate sex work and sex workers may try to co-opt the language of harm reduction. Also, these days, public conversations around criminalized activity, such as drug use or sex work, often suggest that policy options are limited to either prohibition through criminal law enforcement or harm reduction. Oversimplifying responses to sex work in this way excludes other frameworks like labour rights and other human rights from policy discussions. At the same time, harm reduction has been a rallying point across many criminalized communities, particularly around responses to the overdose crisis. 

It is important to use harm reduction language in the context of sex work in a way that is nuanced, clear and remains in solidarity with broader communities of people who use drugs.

This document: 
• summarizes basic features of harm reduction – as identified and articulated by Stella and Butterfly;
• describes how these basic features can be erased, distorted or overshadowed when public harm reduction conversations extend outside of criminalized or marginalized communities and to new issues, highlighting how sex workers’ rights are ignored and violated because of flawed understandings of harm reduction; 
• serves as a guide for identifying discourse, programs and policies that use harm reduction language yet run counter to basic harm reduction principles, and for responding to such discourse, programs and policies; and
• compiles research on existing harm reduction discourse, particularly as it relates to sex work (e.g. government sources, NGOs, academic, media).

*** Note that this description was written by the authors of the tool. ***

Official Reference 
Santini, T., Klein, A., Stella, l’amie de Maimie & Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Support Network. (2020). A reflection on… Sex work and harm reduction discourse. 

To Access the Tool 

sex work, harm reduction, risk reduction, discourse, human rights, politics, education, reflection, activism


Log in ou Create an account . Only subscribed members can comment.