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Sex workers' rights encompass a variety of aims being pursued globally by individuals and organizations that specifically involve the human , health , and labor rights of sex workers and their clients. The goals of these movements are diverse, but generally aim to decriminalize and destigmatize sex work , and ensure fair treatment before legal and cultural forces on a local and international level for all persons in the sex industry.
The term sex work refers primarily to prostitution , but also encompasses adult video performers, phone sex operators, webcam models , dancers in strip clubs , and others who provide sexually-related services. Some extend the use of the term to include "support personnel" such as managers, agents, videographers, club bouncers , and others. The debate over sex work is often characterized as an issue of women's rights , especially by those who argue that prostitution is inherently oppressive and seek to criminalize it or keep it illegal, but in fact, there are also many male and non-binary individuals engaged in providing sexual services.
Most sex workers do not wish to be branded as criminals and regard laws against prostitution, pornography, and other parts of the sex industry as violating their rights. Since the use of red umbrellas by sex workers in Venice , Italy, in —as part of the 49th Venice Biennale of Art—a red umbrella has become the foremost internationally recognized symbol for sex worker rights. In most countries, even those where sex work is legal, sex workers of all kinds feel that they are stigmatized and marginalized, and that this prevents them from seeking legal redress for discrimination for e.
Activists also believe that clients of sex workers may also be stigmatized and marginalized, in some cases even more so than sex workers themselves. For instance, in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, it is illegal to buy sexual acts, but not to sell them the buyer is said to have committed a crime, but not the prostitute. During the s and s, the main topics in the feminist discourse on women's sexuality were pornography , prostitution , and human trafficking.
This led to the birth of the mobilization for sex worker rights in America. Carol Leigh is credited with coining the term "sex work" in the early s and it was later popularized by a book published in called Sex Work.