IR student completing independent study course on the effects of decriminalization of sex work
7/13/2020 3:13:12 PM
EmmaJ_mainEmma Jacobson has a busy summer ahead of her in Sackville. The international relations student is the Shinerama campaign chair this year, summer office manager for the Mount Allison Students' Union, and is working on an independent study course on the effects of the decriminalization of sex work in different countries.

Jacobson first became aware of the issues surrounding decriminalization of prostitution in high school when they were asked to debate this subject. At Mount Allison, she did further research on the topic for an essay for her African politics course with international relations professor, Dr. Dave Thomas.

Jacobson decided she would like to delve deeper into the topic by doing an independent study course. The course, with the guidance of a faculty member, allows students to pursue an area they are interested in that is not covered in detail in other courses.

“I wanted to write about something that I was really passionate about,” she says.

For her original paper for Thomas, Jacobson wrote about decriminalizing sex work in South Africa.

“I stumbled upon an article about the HIV Aids epidemic and how they are using decriminalization of sex work in South Africa to actively help with the epidemic and lessen its effects,” says Jacobson. “Decriminalization helps get people to come forward for testing and for prophylactics. It was very successful.”

For her independent study, Jacobson is developing case studies of three countries: Thailand, whose system is entirely criminalized, and has problems with human trafficking and human rights violations; France, which has partial decriminalization and has a victim-centred support system in place; and New Zealand, which has some of the most liberal laws on sex work in the world.

“I chose these three to illustrate how the wide variety of approaches work and how they actively change lives for people living there.”

Jacobson is particularly interested in the direct impacts of decriminalization, especially the positive effects it has on reducing STIs and HIV Aids epidemic, tackling police brutality, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

"Emma is a wonderful example of a student who does excellent academic work, while also participating in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. Her research project this summer will help build her independent research and writing skills,” says Thomas, her advisor on the project.   “It is a pleasure to work with her."  

Jacobson, who is from Halifax, NS was in France on exchange when the pandemic struck and had to come home early. She said she still feels fortunate for the experience.  Her brother was also on exchange and they were able to spend time in Halifax with her mother when they returned.

“We definitely made the most of our time in Europe,” says Jacobson. “We had our two and a half months there. I even visited my brother in Prague.”

During the school year, Jacobson is equally busy. One of the highlights of her week is spending time with her buddy in the SMILE program. This is a program that matches Mount Allison students with a "buddy" between the ages of three and twenty-one, who has a mental or physical disability. She also helped choreograph the Garnet and Gold musical production for the past two years and is the vice-president of the graduating Class of 2021.