Sex workers held a candlelit vigil in London on Wednesday to mark the international day to end violence against sex workers.
Organised by the English Collective of Prostitutes, the protesters held signs such as Criminalisation makes sex workers
vulnerable to rape, decriminalise now!
Another held a colourful home-made placard reading sex work is work!
Holding candles, the crowd held gathered in Soho. The protest was to demand an end to criminalisation, stigma and
poverty which makes us vulnerable to all forms of violence and exploitation, the campaign group said in a statement.
A repressive new to endanger sex workers by banning paying for sex in Northern Ireland has passed its final stage in the Stormont Assembly.
The region will become the first part of the UK to introduce such oppressive restrictions of liberty when the
Bill receives the formality of royal assent.
The law change, championed by Democratic Unionist Assembly member Lord Morrow, has been hailed by Christian groups but denounced by prostitutes' representatives.
The fate of the Bill's
contentious clause six, proposing the ban on purchasing sex, was uncertain at the outset of a crunch debate in October, with Sinn Fein's decision to back the prohibition with the DUP proving crucial.
Last week there was a parliamentary debate where Labour amendments to criminalise people who buy sex were dropped. A Labour MP, John McDonnell made a fine contribution that is well worth recording for posterity on Melon Farmers.
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab):
To turn briefly to the new clauses and the amendment tabled in relation to prostitution, I apologise to all Members of the House for inundating them with briefings over the past 48 hours. I am very sorry, but this debate came up in a hurry, and it
was important to give people the chance to express their views. I have always respected my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who is very well intentioned. I support new clause 7 because developing a strategy is critical, and amendment
1, which is the decriminalisation amendment, but I am fundamentally opposed to new clause 6, because it is worrying, counter-productive and dangerous. New clause 22 would give us the opportunity and enough time to undertake a proper review.
I know that sex work is abhorrent for some Members. I must say that in the years since I convened some of the first meetings of the Ipswich Safety First campaign in this House, after five women were killed there, I have met a number
of men and women who were not coerced into sex work and do not want their livelihoods to be curtailed by the proposed criminalisation of their clients. It is true that I have met many others who entered prostitution to overcome economic
disadvantage---they suffered in poverty to enable them to pay the rent and put food on the table for their children---but that has been made worse by welfare benefit cuts, escalating housing costs and energy bills. The answer is not to criminalise any of
their activities, but to tackle the underlying cause by not cutting welfare benefits and ensuring people have an affordable roof over their heads and giving them access to decent, paid employment.
The whole issue has focused on
the idea that by stopping the supply of clients, prostitution will somehow disappear, as will all the exploitation, trafficking and violent abuse. The Swedish model has been suggested as an example, but there was absolutely overwhelming opposition to it
in the briefings that I have circulated. Those briefings have come from charities such as Scot-Pep---the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project---which is funded by the state; the Royal College of Nursing, the nurses themselves; and the Global Network of
Sex Work Projects, which is another Government-funded organisation to get women and others off the game, that nevertheless says that the Swedish model would be counter-productive.
The Home Office has commissioned academic
research, and I have circulated a letter from 30 academics from universities around the country that basically says that the proposed legislation is dangerous. We must listen to sex workers: the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Sex Worker Open
University, the Harlots collective, the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe---flamboyant names, but they represent sex workers, and all are opposed to the criminalisation of clients.
Could my hon. Friend quote some sources from Sweden? I understand that in Sweden they do not take that view.
John McDonnell: I will come straight to that point, but let me go through the other organisations we have
listened to: lawyers, human rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and UN Aid, and even the women's institute down in Hampshire---I warn hon. Members never to cross the women's institute anywhere---as well as members of the
Ipswich Safety First coalition who dealt with the deaths those years ago.
What is the consensus? It is that there is no evidence that criminalising clients as in the Swedish legislation reduces the number of either clients or sex
workers. I could quote at length---time we have not got---from the Swedish Government's report that demonstrates that there is no correlation between the legislation they introduced and a reduction in numbers of clients or sex workers.
Fiona Mactaggart: My hon. Friend said that the Swedish Government have no evidence for that, which is true, but they did have evidence that the number of men who pay for sex in Sweden has gone down significantly.
John McDonnell: That was one survey where men who were asked, Do you pay for sex, because you could be prosecuted for it? naturally said no. The evidence has been challenged. The other part of the consensus concerns the
argument that other Governments are now acting and following the Swedish model, but South Africa has rejected it, and Scotland rejected it because measures on kerb crawling were introduced. In France, the Senate has rejected that model on the basis that
sex workers will be put at risk. There are even threats of legal action in Canada on the issue of the safety and security of sex workers.
The other consensus that has come from these organisations is that not only do such measures
not work, they actually cause harm. We know that because we undertook research through the Home Office in 2005-06. What did it say? Sex workers themselves were saying, It means that we never have time to check out the clients in advance. We are rushed
and pushed to the margins of society as a result, which does us harm.
There are alternatives. I do not recognise the view on the implementation of decriminalisation in New Zealand mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for
Slough, because all the research says that it is working. Who says that we should look at decriminalisation? The World Health Organisation, UN Women and UNAIDS. I circulated a letter from Nigel Richardson, who is not just a lawyer who represents sex
workers but also acts as a judge. He says that we can tackle abuse and sexual exploitation with existing laws.
I appeal to the House not to rush to legislate on such a contested issue where there is such conflicting research,
evidence and views. New clause 22 would provide a way through as it would enable us to undertake the necessary research, consult, bring forward proposals, and legislate if necessary. I want to include in that consultation the New Zealand model and full
decriminalisation. I am not in favour of legalisation; I am in favour of full decriminalisation. On that basis we should listen to those with experience. I convened some meetings with the Safety First coalition to brief Members on what it had done. It
invested money in the individuals---£7,000 a prostitute---and it got people out of prostitution by investing money, not by decriminalising them.
Reverend Andrew Dotchin was a founder member of the Safety First coalition. He
I strongly oppose clauses on prostitution in the Modern Slavery Bill, which would make the purchase of sex illegal. Criminalising clients does not stop prostitution, nor does it stop the criminalisation of
women. It drives prostitution further underground, making it more dangerous and stigmatising for women.
I fully support the Reverend Andrew Dotchin in his views.
Sophie* is 22, studying at university and paying for it through sex work. She defines herself as an escort. Her student loan doesn't cover her accommodation and living costs, and her intensive five-year course does not allow for casual work shifts.
Sophie is resigned and bitter about the perception of sex work -- particularly the character of Belle du Jour. I hate it. Because, say I work for a hundred pounds an hour, that it makes it sound very classy, whereas I tend to be
going to real s***holes ... Yeah, it is a hundred pounds for an hour, but you can be thinking about that hour for the next month.
She wonders how her clients afford her, continuing, I don't like a lot of them. I wonder why
they're there. I'm wary of them, why they're not seeing women their age when they're a lot older than you.
Ron Roberts, a senior lecturer at Kingston University, maintains it is an issue ignored by
universities: Anything that actually draws attention to the reality of the conditions in which people have to study for their degree, i.e. extreme and definite financial hardship...they've got absolutely no interest in it.
Roberts claims universities have become corporations, focused towards selling education - at the expense of student welfare. According to Roberts' research, published by Kingston and Leeds Universities, six% of students were involved in the sex industry, generating as much as ?355 million each year. The results were based on answers from 200 students across 29 institutions across the UK.
Student sex workers often separate into two distinct cases -- those that fall into sex work, often alongside drug use problems, and those that work with a clear end-point . These later
individuals often avoid the scant support networks as they are academically motivated and view their sex worker persona as distinct from their sense of self -- leading to strong feelings of isolation.
Comment: Censored whilst
claiming to be uncensored
3rd October 2014. From Alan
Interesting article about Sophie .
She does seem a bit naive. For example, her puzzlement at punters preferring her to women their own age seems a bit strange. I don't think it's that uncommon for an older man to find
younger women sexually attractive. I find twenty-something women sexually attractive, but don't flatter myself that they would return the compliment to my sexagenarian carcass. I would feel ethically constrained not to offer such a young woman money for
sex, but have no great difficulty understanding why some men of my age may not be so scrupulous.
Roberts' survey seems sound enough to me, based on a sample of 200. Qualitative methodologies don't need huge samples, and in some
disciplines much smaller numbers may suffice. Universities UK didn't refute it, by the way: they disagreed with it, or pretended to do so because they didn't like his conclusions.
I think there's also a serious omission in
the article's assertion that Student sex workers often separate into two distinct cases -- those that fall into sex work, often alongside drug use problems, and those that work with a clear end-point . This omits the case of student
sex workers who consciously choose to continue sex work after graduating. The woman who is probably the UK's top professional submissive/spanking erotica actress has continued in sex work after gaining her doctorate. There may be some questions to be
asked about a society in which a woman with a Ph.D. (awarded, I believe, for medically useful research in organic chemistry) can do better financially by having her arse spanked.
Official figures are expected to show that illegal drugs and prostitution, which represent 0.7pc of GDP, are help out Britain's ailing economy. The inclusion of prostitution and illegal drugs are expected to boost the economy by around
£ 10bn a year. £ 5.3bn of the UK's gross domestic product has been attributed to prostitution
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that in 2009, the most
recent year for which the ONS has published data, £ 5.3bn was attributable to prostitution while illegal drugs were worth 4.4bn. Together, they amount to around 0.7pc of
the UK economy, or roughly the same amount as agriculture.