One lunacy is ASBOs being used instead of criminal punishment. Effectively it means repeat offenders are jailed. Given that under current law no one is jailed for being a prostitute, this is an increase, not a decrease
An article in the Economist reignited the debate around legalising prostitution in the UK. Dr Brooke Magnanti explores what decriminalisation would look like and says that we're long overdue a rethink of workers' rights
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
Michael Connarty: 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 states:
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.
A parliamentary group comprised of MPs seeking to criminalise men for buying sex have commissioned a report from a strident campaign group supporting the same cause.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution commissioned a report from the campaign group End Demand. And shock horror, the report is a one sided diatribe of nastiness grasping at the vengeful opportunity to jail men just for
wanting to get laid.
The extreme proposal from End Demand calls for British men who buy sex from sex workers while abroad on stag parties should be prosecuted in the UK under new laws that make paying for sex illegal. See
proposal from enddemand.uk
Sex tourists and businessmen who pay for prostitutes on expense accounts would also be criminalised under the campaign groups proposals in the Sex Buyer Law report.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution chairman, Gavin Shuker, Labour MP for Luton South spewed:
Speaking personally, I think the idea has merit for one simple reason: many people's first experience of buying sex takes place abroad.
In its report, Shifting the Burden , the all-party group recommended the introduction, instead, of a sex-buyer offence, of following the Nordic model. It then asked End Demand , a campaign to end commercial sexual exploitation, to find out how
this could be implemented. The resulting report, produced by a commission on the sex buyer law, is to be launched in parliament this week. This concludes -- on the basis of evidence from Nottingham and Suffolk, as well as countries such as
Sweden, which criminalise buyers -- that a similar law is overdue here, to reduce both the human and economic cost of prostitution.
Having participated in that commission, along with, among others, Alan Caton and Diane Martin, a survivor of the sex trade who has helped others to exit, I find it harder than ever to understand how any politician, local or otherwise, would want
to perpetuate, by legalising it, a trade so staggeringly unequal and so dependent on the trafficked and marginalised. In Germany, which did precisely that in 2002, the resulting brothels are warehouses of migrant women, pimped for bargain
basement prices. Legalisation has failed, it turns out, both to inspire more gallantry in clients and to convince many German women that supplying oral and anal sex on demand could make a nice change from waitressing.
Comment: Disgraceful article by Catherine Bennett in today's Observer
22nd February 2016. Thanks to Alan
There is an appalling article by Catherine Bennett in today's Observer, pimping the Nordic model . I'm baffled that a purportedly liberal newspaper should print this grotesquely illiberal crap, taking any bullshit spouted by an
authoritarian Swedish pseudo-feminist as gospel. So, for Bennett, the nasty Swedish minister of injustice points out blah, blah, blah.... Err, no, point out is a factive verb, claiming veracity for what follows. The minister
actually tendentiously claims blah, blah, blah....
The Guardian and Observer really seem all over the place where sex is concerned. They seem to have a check list of approved sexual behaviours/persons. Hence they're all for buggery by male homosexuals, whom only a bigot would prevent from
marrying one another, but Bennett has a fit of the vapours at the very idea of a lady of the night letting a bloke up her bum. At least the traditional taboos imposed by religion had a logical secular motive - to encourage legitimate offspring
by condemning sexual practices that couldn't produce kids (buggery, masturbation) or cast doubt on their legitimacy (adultery). The Guardian/Observer system seems to pick its does and don't at random.
Needless to say, totally absent from Bennett's drivel is any input from women who actually work in the industry. When one considers that Max Mosley' lady friends were routinely described as prostitutes (and Lord Justice Eady seemed to
acquiesce in that description), I wonder whether Bennett and the Observer might not more usefully consider why a woman with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry finds it more satisfying and/or remunerative to have her bum spanked than to use her
academic qualifications in lecture theatre or lab.
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn's
public statement in support of the decriminalisation of sex work. He, more than many, will have in mind the austerity cuts, 75% of which have targeted women. These cuts are responsible for massive increase in prostitution that we have seen
in the UK as of late.
With 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK and 176,000 people surviving on food banks, no wonder that women are turning to prostitution. The northern English town of Doncaster
reported a 60% increase in prostitution in 2013, with charities saying, "women are being forced to sell sex for £5 because of benefit sanctions".
Sheffield reported a 166% increase in 2014 while charity workers in
Hull have gone on record saying "we have started to see women who are literally starving and they are out there to feed themselves".
As poverty and prostitution increase so does criminalisation. We are currently fighting legal cases with women imprisoned for brothel-keeping because they worked in a flat with friends -- obviously much safer than working alone. We are also
working with women street workers, who are having their IDs confiscated by police before being told that they can only get them back if they show plane tickets back to Romania. This is happening despite these women having the right to reside in
the UK. We are even helping a woman fired from her public service job because she worked part-time in pornography to supplement her wages.
We see daily the injustice of the prostitution laws which force sex workers to work in isolation and danger. As a woman working in Leeds said recently, "the laws are pointing at us and saying, 'nobody cares about you'". That is the view
of every killer who has targeted sex workers.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to abolish the laws is because illegality and stigma hides who sex workers are -- mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and wives --all women (and men and trans people) trying to survive in increasingly harsh
economic times. Those feminist politicians who claim to speak for us but who misinterpret, lie, distort and disparage our experience take advantage of our illegal status knowing that it is harder for us to speak publicly to set the record
Approximately 85% of sex workers are women and the majority are mothers, mostly single mums. If prostitution policy and law was framed by these facts we'd get support for mothers and anti-austerity policies not more criminalisation. So thank
goodness for Corbyn and his close political ally John McDonnell MP, whose principled support for decriminalisation has meant that groups such as the Safety First Coalition (which includes the Royal College of Nursing), Hampshire Women's
Institute, and Women Against Rape have had a voice in parliament.
The evidence of the success of decriminalisation is compelling. At our evidence gathering symposium on prostitution last November, Catherine Healy, founding member and coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, reported on research
Prostitution Law Review Committee that found, five years after the decriminalisation in New Zealand, that there had been no increase in prostitution or trafficking. In contrast, sex workers are now more able to leave prostitution and secure
other work because they aren't registered and convictions have been cleared from their record. The law decriminalised sex workers on the street and in premises, which has made it easier to report violence and has allowed sex workers to work
together, increasing safety.
independent review by the Christchurch School of Medicine in New Zealand found 64% of sex workers found it easier to refuse clients -- a litmus test of whether women are being forced or coerced.
Yet the Home Affairs Committee is studiously ignoring this compelling evidence. Instead it appears to have a pre-determined outcome to recommend the criminalisation of clients -- a proposal backed by an "
unlikely union of evangelical Christians with feminist campaigners ". As one of the women who gave evidence to the inquiry said, "politicians who claim to want to save us by banning our work should first of all say how else we are
Corbyn and John McDonnell's support for decriminalisation puts sex workers of a par with others who have been unjustly criminalised -- young people, people of colour, immigrant people. And that is right. Women picked up for soliciting have long
said that the prostitution laws are to women what the sus laws are to young Black men -- a tool for the police to persecute and harass, with Black and other women of colour as their first targets.
Corbyn and McDonnell take their lead from sex workers who, like other workers, are striving to improve our working conditions. If the Labour party wants an anti-prostitution strategy they should get behind their leader's determined campaign
against benefit cuts, sanctions and an end to zero hour contracts ."
UK Parliament Committee recommends an immediate end to laws prohibiting soliciting and brothel keeping (when adult and consensual)...but will then consider whether men should be criminalised for buying sex
If the committee realises that current prohibitions endanger sex workers then it seems unlikely that they can recommend the criminalisation of men. Even if the crime of soliciting is repealed, then instead of soliciting, the sex workers will
be guilty of inciting men to commit a crime.
The Committee introduces an interim report saying:
The Home Affairs Committee publishes an interim report on prostitution, saying that soliciting by sex workers, and sex workers sharing premises, should be decriminalised.
Home Office should change legislation
The Committee says the Home Office should immediately change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and brothel-keeping laws allow sex workers to share premises, without losing the ability to prosecute those who use
brothels to control or exploit sex workers. There must be zero tolerance of the organised criminal exploitation of sex workers.
The Home Office should also legislate to delete previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers, as these records make it much more difficult for people to move out of prostitution into other forms of work if
they wish to.
Around 11% of British men aged 16--74 have paid for sex on at least one occasion, which equates to 2.3 million individuals.
The number of sex workers in the UK is estimated to be around 72,800 with about 32,000 working in London.
Sex workers have an average of 25 clients per week paying an average of £78 per visit.
In 2014--15, there were 456 prosecutions of sex workers for loitering and soliciting.
An estimated 152 sex workers were murdered between 1990 and 2015. 49% of sex workers (in one survey) said that they were worried about their safety.
There were 1,139 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2014 and 248 in April to June 2015 (following implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015).
With regards to changing the laws on buying sex, this inquiry will continue. The Committee will be seeking further evidence on the impacts of the recently introduced sex buyer laws in Northern Ireland and France, and the model of regulation used
in for example New Zealand, to make a better assessment for its final report. The laws on prostitution need ultimately to be reconsidered in the round, not least to give the police much more clarity on where their priorities should lie and how
to tackle the exploitation and trafficking associated with the sex industry.
Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is an important and separate issue from prostitution involving consenting adults. It is too early to assess the impact of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 on levels of trafficking, but the Crown
Prosecution Service identified 248 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the first three months of the Act's operation, compared to 1,139 in 2014.
Research on prostitution
Despite the obvious difficulties involved in getting data on an essentially covert industry, the Committee is "dismayed" at the poor quality of information available about the extent and nature of prostitution in England and Wales. The
figures cited above must be considered in this context.
Without a proper evidence base, the Government cannot make informed decisions about the effectiveness of current legislation and policies, and cannot target funding and support interventions effectively. The Home Office should commission an
in-depth research study on the current extent and nature of prostitution in England and Wales, within the next 12 months.
Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
This is the first time that Parliament has considered the issue of prostitution in the round for decades. It is a polarising subject with strong views on all sides. This interim report will be followed by final recommendations, when we consider
other options, including the different approaches adopted by other countries.
As a first step, there has been universal agreement that elements of the present law are unsatisfactory. Treating soliciting as a criminal offence is having an adverse effect, and it is wrong that sex workers, who are predominantly women,
should be penalised and stigmatised in this way. The criminalisation of sex workers should therefore end.
The current law on brothel keeping also means sex-workers can be too afraid of prosecution to work together at the same premises, which can often compromise their safety. There must however be zero tolerance of the organised criminal
exploitation of sex workers, and changes to legislation should not lessen the Home Office's ability to prosecute those engaged in exploitation.
The Committee will evaluate a number of the alternative models as this inquiry continues, including the sex-buyers law as operated in Sweden, the full decriminalised model used in Denmark, and the legalised model used in Germany and the
Almost half of British people support the legalisation and regulation of prostitution, according to new polling conducted by Survation for Left Foot Forward.
Asked which of three legal models would be best for the UK, 48.2% supported legalising and regulating the industry, while just 11.3% support decriminalising the sellers of sex but criminalising the buyers (the so-called Nordic model). 22.8%
favoured criminalising the industry altogether.
The Survation poll was conducted ahead of a Left Foot Forward fringe event at Labour Party Conference, which will discuss which legislative approach should be adopted by the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have both publicly supported decriminalisation, but many of their colleagues disagree.
Among Labour supporters, 48.4% support legalising prostitution, while 14.5% support the introduction of the Nordic model.
Overall, 44% of people supported a change to the law, while 38% think it should stay the same.
Warning: Fake News Alert: When did politicians ever care about a robust evidence base when issues of morality are at stake?
In July the Home Affairs Committee said soliciting for sex in England and Wales should no longer be a criminal offence. MPs also suggested sex workers should be able to share premises rather than risk working alone.
However such policies are way to liberal for the government and so they have commissioned another research report, no doubt hoping that it will reach a more proscriptive solution. After all there are still lots of men to jail for the heinous
crime of simply trying to enjoy the pleasures of life.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that a robust evidence base was needed before policy changes were addressed. And so another Home Office research project has been commissioned and will report back next June. Rudd commented that any
government response should include:
Ensuring those involved in prostitution and sex work are safeguarded, that traffickers and those who exploit vulnerable people can be effectively targeted, and ensuring that community concerns about prostitution and sex work can be addressed.