- This APPG Inquiry is not independent and was deeply biased from the start. Its remit was to: “develop proposals for government action with a focus on tackling demand for the sex trade.” Unsurprisingly therefore that the Inquiry’s conclusion is to recommend the blanket criminalisation of sex workers’ clients.
- The Inquiry report contains fundamental inaccuracies.
The quotes below attributed to Niki Adams of the English Collective of Prostitutes are shown to come from an NHS Outreach project worker.
- P31 — “They are here because their families are living in absolute poverty in their home country and they are earning money and they are sending money home.” Niki Adams, English Collective of Prostitutes, Oral Evidence.
- P32 — “The biggest issue that forces the women out onto the street in our street UK based population are drug and alcohol issues. So it’s that dependency, that need to pay for drugs.” Niki Adams, English Collective of Prostitutes, Oral Evidence
How many other people were misquoted?
3. In other places the ECP is quoted out of context. For example, the problems we raise such as the high level of violence against sex workers, the lack of police protection, sex workers reluctance to report violence for fear of arrest, criminal records trapping sex workers in prostitution are recorded. But there is no mention of our evidence demanding decriminalisation as introduced in New Zealand as the most effective proven remedy to these problems.
Ruth Jacobs and Phil Hubbard have also voiced complaints about their evidence being taken out of context.
4. There is no statistical analysis of the responses. The only statistic given is that of the 413 respondents “7% considered the current laws on prostitution to be effective and consistent in safeguarding those involved in prostitution.”
What did the other 93% say? What is the group hiding?
Indications are that there was a lot of opposition to what the APPGP is proposing: “A number of submissions to the Inquiry expressed opposition to this [Nordic] model, communicating concerns that criminalising the purchase of sexual services will drive prostitution underground.” And: “Although half of respondents to the Inquiry, when questioned, expressed the view that prostitution is a reasonable form of employment.”
We need to know exactly how many opposed the criminalisation of clients/Nordic model and how many supported it? And how many supported some form of decriminalisation? What is the group hiding?
5. Research cited is not from independent academic source.
a) The statistic that over half of sex workers report they were coerced into sex work (p40) comes from a survey of 114 women by Eaves Housing, a specialist service for trafficked women.
b) The statistic that 83% of sex workers “disclosed current or former problematic drug or alcohol use” came from the same survey.
c) Figures cited about the numbers of people entering prostitution under the age of 18 (variously 32%, 75% or 100%) come from projects like New Horizon Youth Centre whose clients are young people.
The APPG’s proposal is based on prejudice and moralism. Its secretariat the homophobic charity CARE spearheaded campaigns against gay marriage. Caroline Lucas MP denied that she was taking a moralistic stance. Why then single out prostitution from the many other exploitative and even dangerous jobs many people do to survive? Why are sexual services considered inherently more degrading than other services?
Sex workers experience high levels of rape and other violence but this does not mean that prostitution is violence. Domestic workers experience comparable levels of violence, and actions to address this focus on empowering the worker not criminalising people who employ a cleaner. Domestic violence is the most common form of violence; two women a week are killed by their partner or former partner. But, no-one would sensibly propose banning relationships or marriage. To conflate prostitution with violence is insulting to sex workers and implies that we don’t know the difference between consenting sex and rape and other violence.
Going into prostitution because of poverty, debt, homelessness is not “coercion” any more than taking any job for these reasons. If we work in a call centre because we have no money to pay the rent, are we coerced? Should call centres be banned as a result?
Why recommend that the police go after clients who have not been reported as violent when the police have so much trouble catching the rapists and perpetrators of domestic violence that women do report? Why call for increased police powers against prostitution when their track record shows that these powers have been primarily used to harass sex workers? The priority should be for the police to address the appalling 7% conviction rate for reported rape, not divert police time and resources into policing consenting sex. How are police supposed to be accountable rape victims when they are being told that women do not know the difference between consenting sex and rape?
6. The proposal will further criminalise women.
The Inquiry recommends: “Removing soliciting offences that target women involved in prostitution from statute and instead dealing with persistent anti-social behaviour under ASB legislation.” ASBOs are draconian, often much worse than the prison sentences they replace – one of our group was given an ASBO for 26 years banning her from the whole borough including where she lives. Breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence with a sentence of up to five years in prison. Why did Baroness Corston, who has done so much good work on preventing women going to prison, sign up to this? Is she aware that ASBOs have been a key factor in the increase in women’s imprisonment.
Existing laws already criminalise those who coerce anyone into the sex industry. Why extend it to consenting sex?
7. Why are New Zealand and Canada being ignored?
New Zealand decriminalised in 2003 with verifiable improvements in sex workers safety. Canada’s Supreme Court threw out the prostitution laws for violating women’s right to safety. Why are these examples not being looked at?