Monday, 22 February 2016

The oldest profession under threat?

Sign Pledge to decriminalise sex work for safety's sake

With everyones attention focused on the forthcoming Euro-referendum there are a lot of stories falling under the radar. One such story is the decision of an all-party Parliamentary group on prostitution says paying for sex should be a crime. One that could lead up to a year in jail and the law would be extended to UK citizens going abroad to prevent "sex tourism".

Such a law already exists in "liberal" Sweden and probably unknown to many is already against the law in Northern Ireland. The BBC reported:

Legislation making it a crime to pay for sex has come into effect in Northern Ireland.

Last year, Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to pass legislation making the purchase of sexual services illegal.

Anyone caught breaking the new law could face up to a year in prison and a fine of £1,000.

Assembly members voted by 81 to 10 in favour of the measure, brought by the DUP peer Lord Morrow.

Supporters said it tackled one of the main drivers behind human trafficking.

Opponents included Justice Minister David Ford who claimed it would be difficult to enforce.

Difficult to enforce? Anyone remember prohibition in the United States?

The need to crack down on human trafficking and sex slavery is not under question here. That evil trade needs to be stamped out, but this does not seem to be the right way to go about it and will criminalise a layer of people unnecessarily. All this will do is drive the evil trafficking trade further underground.

Prostitution has been described as the "worlds oldest profession" and despite the moral panics that surround it there is little reason to think that criminalising the act of purchasing sex between two consenting adults is going to stop. Rather I fear it will become more dangerous for the women in the sex industry. 

One of the demands of the English Collective of Prostitutes is:

No criminalisation of clients; sex between consenting adults should not be the business of the criminal law.

The Collective also made a submission to the Parliamentary group in which they stated:

False claims that over 80% of sex workers are trafficked have been peddled by politicians looking to increase the criminalisation of prostitution. In fact, less than 6% of sex workers in the UK are trafficked (Mai, 2011). “Many migrants prefer working in the sex industry rather than the “unrewarding and sometimes exploitative conditions they meet in non-sexual jobs” (Evening Standard, 2011). 

Despite government claims about prioritising trafficking, most victims get no protection. A parliamentary committee (2005) found they are frequently deprived of “protection, access to services and justice” and “treated as immigration offenders facing detention and removals.

They conclude:

Research on the Swedish law which criminalised clients found: “no convincing empirical evidence that the law has resulted in a decline in sex work . . .” Under the constant threat of police interference, sex workers are forced to hurry the process of screening and negotiating with clients, which makes them take more risks. It also found that sex workers have often been prosecuted as ‘pimps’ when they band together for safety. Landlords have been pressured by police to evict sex worker tenants under threat of being prosecuted themselves. Police have also been known to report sex workers to hotels and – most devastatingly – sex work is frequently cited as a reason for refusing child custody. Rose Alliance, the sex worker organisation in Sweden, conducted their own research and found that 63% of sex workers said that the sex purchase law had created more prejudices.

Domestic violence, including rape, is the most common form of violence against women, yet no-one suggests that relationships between women and men should be banned.

Claims that violence, particularly trafficking, can be reduced by criminalising clients are disproven by a 2014 Vancouver study which found that “criminalisation and policing strategies that target clients… profoundly impacted the safety strategies sex workers employed.”

You can show your support by signing this pledge:

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