Parliament Calls For Sex Work Decriminalisation

July 1, 2016

The houses of parliament

There has been some excellent news for sex workers in the last few days. It seem that in parliament, the Home Affairs Select Committee has called for the decriminalisation of sex work. If acted upon, it will open up a whole new, safer world for sex workers all over the country.

The committee report starts with the following:

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.

To be fair, we can’t argue with a word of that. All we have ever wanted is sex worker safety. On the flipside, if criminality is going on, and people are being victimised, then throw the book at them. We will applaud and help, as we do now.

There is a lot more to the report, and if you just follow that link, you can see it. There are figured on the amount of arrests for soliciting, and a very worrying section where it says 152 sex workers were murdered between 1990 and 2015. This is why we are glad it is being said that sex workers should be allowed to work together. Sex workers on their own make much easier targets for the depraved in our society.

The Way Forward

The chair of the committee went on to make the following comments.

“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 Netherlands.”

What is good here is that all options are being kept open. It seems that, as things stand, they are motivated purely by sex worker safety. For that, we applaud them.

We will see where this ends up. This is not yet government policy, and with all the issues with Brexit, and the Tory leadership campaign, I doubt it will be a pressing concern for the government. However, it really is a big leap forward for the industry. It shows that our arguments are being listened to. For that, we can rejoice.

We will of course keep you updated on the developments here. Let us hope that they are good for every decent person involved in the sex industry.

Martin Ward
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