Follow us @PLRI

Court-based research: collaborating with the justice system to enhance STI services for vulnerable women in the US http://t.co/3vEaFQVO
The fractal queerness of non-heteronormative migrant #sexworkers in the UK by Nick Mae http://t.co/X7oGFeDI
‘only 31% of the sample of indirect sex workers reported having been engaged in commercial sex in the last 12 months’
Old but good. Violence and Exposure to HIV among #sexworkers in Phnom Penh http://t.co/rkrRGiBa
Someone is Wrong on the Internet: #sex workers’ access to accurate information 


We formed our partnership in 2008. The idea for the Paulo Longo Research Initiative (PLRI) arose among activists, policy advocates and academics who were frustrated by the quality of information on sex work available. Although there are many excellent books, essays and studies about sex work – including several by sex workers – a great deal of scholarship on sex work is misguided and stigmatizing. Sex workers frequently complain that much of what is written about them reflects prejudices and myths rather than the reality of their lives. Advocates of rights based policy and programmes also complain frequently about the lack of quality research to provide evidence to guide their work. The study of sex work has a complex history that reflects shifting understandings of links between prostitution and public health, law, gender, economics and human rights. Research on sex work is made difficult by a lack of agreed standards and methodologies. Indeed generally accepted definitions of prostitution, sex work and sex workers do not exist. Ethical aspects of collecting information and producing knowledge about sex work have also been problematic with many claiming that the accepted ethical framework does not protect sex workers as individual research subjects or as an occupational or social group. The body of work dealing with commercial sex is perhaps best described as uneven. For example, the role of female sex workers in HIV epidemics has been studied extensively while male and transgender sex workers haven’t despite serious sub-epidemics in these communities. The economics of sex work, income redistribution and labor issues have received comparatively little attention despite the important roles they play in the lives of sex workers, their clients, families and the broader community. Most recently discussion about sex work has been reframed as a dialogue about human trafficking and sexual exploitation. As a result consideration of sex work has become linked to concerns over ‘criminal’ immigration, terrorism, drugs, HIV, poverty and gender inequality – whilst other areas key to the dynamics of commercial sex continue to be broadly overlooked. The links between research and policy is a persistent concern. Sex workers rights advocates say that while poor and stigmatizing research is frequently successfully promoted, higher quality research frequently remains scattered across academic journals and internet sites where it is not easily accessed by policy makers, advocates and programme implementers. Opportunities to advance human rights and dignity through sound policy and law making are lost where ill-informed ideas replace rigorous research.