Dian Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull. She is the latest of UK politicians to propose a nasty bill criminalising men for buying sex. The parliamentary gender items reads:
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION: TEN MINUTE RULE MOTION
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to criminalise paying for sex; to decriminalise selling sex; to create offences relating to enabling or profiting from another person's sexual exploitation;
to make associated provision about sexual exploitation online; to make provision for support services for victims of sexual exploitation; and for connected purposes.
The English Collective of Prostitutes have responded:
Of the approximately 72,800 sex workers in the UK -- at least 88% are women.
Prostitution has always been connected to women's poverty -- that's why overwhelmingly clients are men and sex workers are
Prostitution is increasing because poverty is increasing. 86% of austerity cuts have targeted women . Child poverty has gone up: 30% and in some London boroughs and areas of the North-East and Midlands 55% of children live
in poverty . Government policies of benefit sanctions and the introduction of universal credit have deliberately caused destitution and pushed more women, particularly single mothers , [ii] into prostitution to feed themselves and their families.
Since the pandemic destitution has skyrocketed and women's organisations, including sex worker organisations like the English Collective of Prostitutes, report having to organise for food vouchers and donations to keep families
ISSUES RAISED IN PARLIAMENT
The Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated poverty, homelessness and debt. Thousands of sex workers are dependent on food banks to survive . Demands for the
government to provide emergency payments for sex workers in crisis, worker status so that women could get wage relief, sick pay and the benefits that other workers can claim, healthcare regardless of immigration status, and a moratorium on arrests, were
picked up by some MPs who tabled questions to the government about the lack of support.
These demands for emergency help were not supported by the proposer of this motion.
Evidence submitted to the 2019
Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Universal Credit and Survival Sex focused on the impact of austerity on levels of prostitution in the UK. The Committee published its findings in November 2019. It recommended action against some of the worst
injustices of the benefit system such as draconian sanctions and the five-week delay to get Universal Credit which have increased destitution and pushed many more women into "survival sex".
The former homelessness tsar
recently raised the alarm about growing destitution in the pandemic, warning mothers could have to "go out and prostitute themselves, so that they could put food on the table."
Evidence from sex workers was also
presented to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty who commented on "the harsh and arbitrary nature of some of the sanctions, as well as the devastating effects that resulted from being completely shut out of the benefits system for weeks or
months at a time."
The Home Affairs Committee 2016 Inquiry recommended : "... the Home Office change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and so that brothel-keeping provisions allow sex
workers to share premises." It called for "previous convictions and cautions for prostitution [to be deleted] from the record of sex workers".
Police have arrested more than 400 people for allegedly 'keeping brothels' since 2017, according to figures obtained by Sky News.
Sky News sent freedom of information requests to 45 police forces asking for the number of arrests for suspected
brothel-keeping offences from January 2017 to the end of August 2020.
The response was that police forces have detained at least 408 suspects in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since the start of 2017.
Although there has been an 11%
drop in arrests so far this year compared with 2019, officers have still been targeting brothels during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a policy of callous disregard for the safety of sex workers, keeping a brothel is defined in the UK as more than
one sex worker working from premises. So even just 2 sex workers working together for safety is then construed as a brothel. The English Collective of Prostitutes explains on its website:
If you work with someone else
in a flat you can be done for running a brothel, even if you are not there at the same time.
Emily, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, commented:
How can we keep ourselves safe when we're
on our own? It puts you in danger on a daily basis.
She called it draconian that she could end up with at least seven years in prison for running the flat if caught by police:
You live in fear of what can
go wrong -- a knock on the door can mean that you're criminalised yet what you do is spend all day trying to make people happy. We're not actually doing anything that's criminal, she said. It's the laws that are criminal.
figures revealed that at least 64 people were arrested between January and August this year. Kent Police disclosed the highest number of arrests of any force, with 99 since 2017. Other hotspots included Thames Valley (45 arrests), Bedfordshire (32) and
Many of the arrests do not result in prosecutions, with figures from the Ministry of Justice revealing that only 48 people were put on trial from 2017 to 2019.
Prostitution is a form of commercial sexual exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation persists as a result of how women are viewed by society.
The Scottish Government's
definition of gender based violence is clearly set out in Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls:
Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of
male power and privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women and children, or affront to their human dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of
liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It is men who predominantly carry out such violence, and women who are predominantly the victims of such violence. By referring to violence as 'gender based' this definition highlights the need to
understand violence within the context of women's and girl's subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence
women's vulnerability to violence
Equally Safe Priority 4 states the Scottish Government's priority to ensure men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and
effective response. This violence includes the violence perpetrated by men in relation to acts of commercial sexual exploitation, of which prostitution is one aspect.
The consultation is being taken forward under Equally Safe and
fulfils the 2019-20 Programme for Government commitment to consult on approaches to challenge men's demand for prostitution, continue to support work to reduce the harms associated with commercial sexual exploitation and help women to exit prostitution.
The aim of the consultation is to gather views on how best to challenge men's demand for prostitution in Scotland, reducing the harms associated with prostitution and supporting women involved to exit. The consultation paper
invites views from a wide range of readers including key stakeholders, statutory partners, those who work in the sector to challenge men's demand for prostitution, support women and those who may have lived experience to help inform the development of
future approaches to prostitution in Scotland.