Dear Rt Hon Frank Field MP and members of the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill
On the basis of our collective [considerable] experience and robust research evidence on sex work in the UK, EU and internationally, we ask that you consider the following serious concerns we have with the proposed amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill that seeks to criminalize paying for sex.
First, any such criminalization of clients is de facto criminalization of sex workers – there is no known area in the sale of services where a seller is helped by criminalizing the buyer. This will have certain impacts on the safety of sex workers, who will be forced to make decisions about the potential risks posed by clients more quickly, and indeed take risks to ensure their livelihood is maintained. Moreover, blanket criminalization will divert resources away from pursuing serious crimes against sex workers and, indeed, anyone subject to forced labour.
Second, there is already an existing law designed to protect people who are forced into prostitution.
Third, the history of sex work is also the history of a range of piecemeal legislation that criminalizes a variety of ‘objectionable’ conduct. The proposed amendment is another example of simply adding to the current legislation without thinking about the bigger picture. The proposed amendment would be introducing a radical change to the legislation through the back door and criminalizing consensual sexual activities which are currently not illegal.
Fourth, there is a range of robust research that challenges the sense of taking an approach which criminalizes one party in the exchange relationship, with no credible academic research to support the criminalization of clients.
We ask that you give peer reviewed research its proper weighting in considering this amendment. See for example a special edition of Criminology and Criminal Justice: The Governance of Commercial Sex: Global Trends of Criminalisation, Punitive Enforcement, Protection and Rights. http://crj.sagepub.com/content/14/5?etoc . The research by Levy and Jakobsson demonstrates the detrimental effects of the Swedish law on the wellbeing and safety of sex workers there. Abel et al’s work in New Zealand evidences that an alternative approach – de-criminalizing sex work – is actually a safer and more superior alternative to criminalizing one or other of the partners in the exchange. See more at: http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?k=9781847423344#sthash.H6iIs9HS.dpuf
Finally, It is telling that a Swedish government report lists its own flaws stating: ‘evaluating the effects of the ban has proved to be a difficult task’ because the surveys had ‘limited scope’ as well as ‘different working procedures, methods and purposes’ and ‘In the light of these and other factors, there can be reason to interpret the results with caution’ p34. (accessed 2/11/14 – http://www.government.se/content/1/c6/15/14/88/6dfbbdbd.pdf)
We are certain that you want what we all want – to prevent increasing the vulnerability of women, men and transgendered people who sell sex; to uphold the human rights of sex workers and others subject to trafficking and forced labour; and to bring those who groom, traffic and force human labour to justice. Criminalizing the purchasers of sex via the proposed amendment is not a sensible or safe option.
Dr Belinda Brooks Gordon, Birkbeck, University of London
Professor Maggie O’Neill , Durham University
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Graham Scrambler, University College London
Professor Nick Mai, London Metropolitan University
Professor Ronald Weitzer, George Washington University
Professor Phil Hubbard, University of Kent
Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson, University of Nottingham
Professor Barb Brents, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Jane Pitcher, Loughborough University
Rosie Campbell OBE, University of Leeds & University of Durham,
Dr. Mary Laing, Northumbria University
Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh, Middlesex University
Dr Nicola Smith, University of Birmingham
Dr Coleen Moore, Anglia University
Dr John Meadowcroft, King’s College London
Dr Lucy Neville, Middlesex University
Dr Teela Sanders, University of Leeds
Dr Martin Zebracki, University of Leeds
Dr Emily Cooper, Lancaster University
Dr Julia Laite, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr Graham Ellison, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr Paul Maginn, University of Western Australia
Dr Alison Jobe, Durham University
Dr Dirk Schubotz, Queens University Belfast
Ursula Probst, Freie Universität Berlin
Matthias Lehman, Doctoral Researcher in Law, Queens University Belfast
Max Morris, Doctoral Researcher in Sociology, Durham University
Dr Tracey Sagar, Swansea University
Dr Paul Ryan, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Dr Sarah Kingston, University of Lancaster