1. Increase safety.
Police crackdowns break up safety networks. Raids, arrests and prosecutions make it harder for sex workers to collectively assert their rights to better working conditions. Street workers are forced into isolated areas and are at greater risk of attack. Brothel-keeping law makes it illegal for two or more sex workers to work together, yet it is six times safer to work indoors.
2. Free up police time to focus on the investigation of violent crimes over the policing of consenting sex.
While the vast majority of murder cases are solved, in one-third of murders of sex workers the killer is never found. Women Against Rape highlights the appalling 6.7% conviction rate for reported rape, yet 25 police officers can commonly be found to raid sex workers’ premises.
Fear of arrest, and for immigrant sex workers fear of deportation, are the biggest obstacles to reporting rape and other violence. When sex workers do report they have been prosecuted for prostitution offences while their attacker goes free. If they manage to get their attacker into court they can face a character assassination. Violent men take advantage of this legal vulnerability and deliberately target sex workers.
3. Enhance health.
Aggressive policing and the stigma associated with sex work makes it harder for sex workers to negotiate condom use with clients and access health services. Possession of condoms is still used as evidence of prostitution.
4. Provide legal recognition of sex workers as workers.
Sex workers would be entitled to improve their working conditions, get a pension, form and join trade unions.
5. Protect immigrant sex workers.
Police raids are often justified in the name of saving victims of trafficking but target immigrant sex workers working consensually for arrest and deportation. Genuine victims rarely get help.
6. Recognise sex workers’ contribution.
The majority of sex workers in the UK are mothers, mostly single mothers, supporting families in the face of rising unemployment, benefit cuts and sanctions, lowering wages, homelessness and debt.
7. End criminal records.
Prostitute cautions and convictions show up with a criminal records check which can bar access to other jobs and prevent sex workers from leaving prostitution.
8. Help end the hypocritical stigma attached to sex work.
Criminal laws against sex work intrude into people’s sex lives and are a form of state control over women’s bodies. Consenting sex should not be a crime. Gay sex was decriminalised in England in the 1960s, why not consenting sex where money is exchanged.
New Zealand successfully decriminalised prostitution in 2003. A government review has shown positive results: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; sex workers more able to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records; drug users treated as patients not criminals.