Sex workers to campaign against new legal moves
Stephen Naysmith Social affairs correspondent Wednesday 3 April 2013 The Herald Scotland
SEX workers and campaigners are to stage a series of events to protest against criminalisation of their work and warn against driving prostitution underground.
Women and men involved in prostitution should be given human rights and protections at work, according to the organisers of a Sex Worker Open University (Swou) event taking place in Scotland this week.
The five-day event is part of a wider Sex Workers’ Rights Festival in Glasgow, part-funded by the Edinburgh-based sex worker support charity Scot-Pep. The programme includes a public debate on laws and policies affecting sex workers.
However, the main purpose of the event is to campaign against laws restricting sex work and attempts to criminalise the men who buy sex.
Organisers of the festival, including the English Collective of Prostitutes, argue such laws risk driving sex work underground and putting women and male prostitutes at greater risk of violence and abuse. Instead of turning sex workers into victims and criminals, they argue they should be treated as any other workers and offered the same protections.
Jay Levy, a PHD student at Cambridge University, will argue research in Sweden following the passage of laws criminalising the purchase of sex does not support such laws.
He said: “Although the law has failed to demonstrably diminish levels of prostitution; stigma, danger and violence in sex work have increased as have difficulties with authorities and service and healthcare providers.”
A spokeswoman for Swou said: “Despite the important amount of research and evidence pointing towards decriminalisation, misinformed politicians still draft law proposals that only further endanger sex workers.
“We challenge the popular stereotype of sex workers as vicitims or criminals. We believe those who choose to work in the sex industry, for whatever reasons, deserve the same legal and human rights as all other workers and criminalisation only increases our vulnerability and oppression at work.”
George Lewis, co-chairman of Scot-Pep, said: “We know from previous experience the health and safety of sex workers is threatened by driving it underground.”
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is attempting to bring forward a new law which would make it an offence to attempt to buy sex.
She said: “This mantra that for some reason such laws would make it more dangerous are completely wrong. What is very clear is prostitution is currently very dangerous and anything that reduces demand reduces the number of people put at risk.”
Ms Grant added that the sex trade could not be driven completely underground, otherwise potential clients would not be able to find sex workers.
“This is not a harmless pursuit being carried out by consenting adults, it is damaging people, abusive and a form of coercion. You can’t buy consent.”
By CHRISTOPHER CLAIRE
Published on Sunday 7 April 2013 00:00
CAMPAIGNERS calling for the decriminalisation of prostitution in Scotland took to the streets of Glasgow yesterday for a five-day festival focusing on the sex industry.
The Sex Worker Open University will run until Wednesday and includes a public debate on laws and policies affecting sex workers.
The demonstrators are campaigning against laws restricting sex work and attempts to criminalise men who buy sex.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is aiming to bring forward new legislation that would make it an offence to attempt to buy sex. The campaigners outside the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Glasgow’s West End yesterday held placards reading: “Rhoda! Don’t erode our rights!”
Jay Levy, a PhD student at Cambridge University, was among those due to speak this weekend and claims research in Sweden has shown new anti-prostitution laws there have failed to have any impact on the trade.
“Although the law has failed to diminish levels of prostitution, the stigma, danger and violence in sex work have increased as have difficulties with authorities and service and healthcare providers.”
The festival is part-funded by the Edinburgh-based sex worker support charity Scot-Pep.