Sign open letter: Consenting sex is not a crime!

We, the undersigned demand that prostitution – the consenting exchange of sexual services for money – is decriminalised.

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As LGBTQ sex workers and allies we are asking for support for the decriminalisation of prostitution – consenting sex where payment is involved.

“The freedom of two people to have sexual contact with each other has historically been denied to people of different races and classes, and to people of the same gender. This freedom is still denied to people when payment is involved. Why should two adults who want to have consensual sexual contact with each other in private not be able to do so?”

 Tim Barnett, former New Zealand MP.

Gay sex was partially decriminalised in 1967 in England and Wales, 1980 in Scotland, and 1982 in N. Ireland. While it is now fully decriminalised, the criminalisation of sex work has increased. Those promoting criminalisation include homophobic “evangelical Christians” which oppose gay marriage, any sex outside marriage, and abortion.

Proposals to criminalise sex workers’ clients have been put forward in a number of places: by a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG); in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill in the North of Ireland; in a number of other European countries including France; by the European Women’s Lobby which has made it a campaigning priority. They were recently defeated in Scotland and Ireland. The notoriously anti-gay, Christian charity, CARE, and other fundamentalist religious groups promote these measures as part of their moralistic agenda (see evidence below).

While these proposals claim to target clients and traffickers (based on false claims about trafficking) sex workers will be the first affected. Forced to work and live underground, denied protection by the police and courts, we face higher levels of violence and exploitation. While rapists and other violent men are allowed to get away, non-violent clients – men, gay and straight, engaged in consensual casual sex for payment – are being targeted. We must stop this fundamentalist witch-hunt.

Sex workers are women (mostly), trans people and men who make a living by providing sexual services – a skilled but maligned job.  If we want to leave prostitution, there are few or no jobs to go to, or they pay too little to make ends meet, or we are blocked from them by our ‘criminal record’ or our immigration status.  With rising unemployment and benefit cuts, the number of sex workers is up and so is the number of women and men in jail for prostitution related offences.

Tim Barnett, a gay man and former New Zealand MP who sponsored the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act which decriminalised prostitution, described the discriminatory way in which the laws were used against LGBTQ people and people of colour: “Soliciting figures showed that half of those arrested were transgender sex workers who were identified as men, showing that the homophobia of the police was driving their enforcement of anti sex work laws. Racism was also evident in that two-thirds of the women arrested were Maori and other people of colour.” In the UK, it was Maureen Colquhoun, the first openly lesbian MP, who proposed the decriminalisation of sex work back in 1979.[i]

We urge LGBTQ organisations to support the movement to throw off “the last significant vestige of Victorian moral law” by signing the pledge below and forwarding this information to your networks. We would be glad to work with you against the repressive proposals to criminalise clients.

Issued by:
English Collective of Prostitutes                                 Queer Strike                        
Both groups can be reached at: 020 7482 2496 

Early signers

Sex Worker Open University
Left Front Art – Radical Progressive Queers
House of Brag Queer Social Centre
Queer Resistance
Brighton Feminist Collective
Queer+ Friends of Chelsea Manning
Queers Against the Cuts


Rupert  Everett, actor
Cary Gee, journalist
Ruth Jacobs, author & journalist
Anton Johnson, LGBT Officer, Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils
Grayson Perry CBE, award winning artist


Evidence of homophobic religious groups promoting the criminalisation of sex workers’ clients

The All-Party Parliamentary Group has chosen as its secretariat the “cash-rich” charity CARE. CARE campaigns ferociously against gay marriage and its director is on the board of the Coalition for Marriage. It campaigned against the repeal of Section 28[ii], which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools. In 2009, CARE sponsored a London conference which included sessions on “mentoring the sexually broken”.[iii] Co-organisers of that conference have hosted evangelical Christians who speak on “The Lepers Among Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church”.

CARE funds members of parliament by providing them with free interns. After protest, a number of MPs severed links with CARE. Ben Bradshaw MP described it as “a bunch of homophobic bigots” when it refused to provide him with an intern because he is openly gay.[iv]

CARE is sponsoring the N. Ireland Bill[v]. Lord Morrow, its proponent, is one of three Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Lords. The DUP has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights. In 1977, Ian Paisley, Lord Morrow’s close friend, launched the “Save Ulster From Sodomy” campaign to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In 2007, Lord Morrow tabled an amendment to scrap laws banning businesses from discriminating against gay people.[vi]

Proposals to introduce laws to criminalise clients were defeated in Ireland and Scotland. In Ireland, those promoting the law included Ruhama – an NGO founded in 1989 by two Catholic organizations which for over 200 years ran the Magdalene Laundries, institutions where so-called “fallen women” were imprisoned, forced into slave labour and physically abused, their children stolen from them.[vii]

[i] Protection of Prostitutes Bill.

[ii] Onward Christian Lobbyists”, Guardian, 30 July ‘00

[iii] ’Gay Cure’ Christian Charity funded 20 MPs’ interns.”, Guardian, 13 April ‘12

[iv] “UK MP cuts ties to Christian gay ‘cure’ charity”, GayStar News, 16 March ‘12

[v] Prostitution proposal needs kicked to the kerb”, Belfast Telegraph, 16 Oct ‘12

[vi] Take a Bow Your Lordships”, Guardian, 10 Jan, 2007

[vii] Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters

8 thoughts on “Sign open letter: Consenting sex is not a crime!

  1. As a grandmother I campaign for my Black grandchildren to be treated with respect with however, what ever way, however they choose – to be with, and to live their lives. We must all speak up and support this open letter.

  2. Far too much hypocrisy surrounds the issue of prostitution. Whilst a vast amount of money is generated through the exploitation of sex to stimulate the sales of “products” not necessarily related to sex, the direct sale of sexual services is all but legislated against. If this is not hypocritical how else can our current legislation be described? It has nothing whatever to do with protecting anyone from poverty, rather it punishes those who resort to prostitution as an expedient way to avoid it. The number of individuals caught up this way of life—from those who choose it as their best option, right down to those who are forced into it by others—the current legislation is patronizing and pointless.

  3. If two individuals want to have sexual intercourse, why not let them? So many laws have now been overturned and you would think by now, of how current we are within this country prostitution (in a secure way) would be legalised. When I refer to a secure way, I do feel that prostitutes need to feel safe in the job that they are in, even though both consent you need a way of feeling protected. So perhaps brothels to be a place of security, in the knowledge that others are in the same position as you. Even though individuals state they are happy within the job they are in, it saddens me that people feel that without the job they have no were to turn because of judgement of organisations therefore not giving them a job, or be it a second chance. I believe this government has the habit on focusing on areas that don’t need to be focused on, therefore leading us to the recession. Perhaps if people no longer want to be within prostitution various groups could be set up as a way to help those find work easier and be safe in the knowledge people at the meetings are within the same position.
    Further reading of this article shocked me when referring to homophobic comments such as; mentorring the sexually broken. Do they really assume people are going to go to these meetings to be belittled by society, when all they do is find the same sex attractive, it upsets me to see how people react to others within society.
    It is also clear institutional racism shows itself, showing the figures about those being pulled over for prostitute also shocks me, 2/3 of Maori’s is a significant amount and needs to be addressed.

  4. The only thing I see worth banning is abuse of any sort. I see the criminalization of sex workers as abuse, so this is what needs to be banned, so this world can grow to be a more beautiful place.

  5. People have their own strong reasons for sex work. I am proud to work with people who have undertaken sexwork

  6. My MP insists that raiding brothels and sequestrating the bank accounts of brothel-keepers is an affective way of ‘protecting’ those who have been ‘forced’ into sex work. The violence directed at sex workers, he says, is a measure of the world those who choose to remain in sex work are in. I responded by asking how safe HE would feel if he had to meet his constituents, not in his office, but in the street? He didn’t answer. Such people only pretend to care. They are actually hypocrites who see cheap votes from an ill-aware, and ill-informed public by beating their usual “clean-up the neighbourhood” drum. The criminalisation of sex-workers is indeed the worst kind of abuse, because it specifically makes those involved MORE vulnerable, not less.

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