Evidence, submissions to parliamentary committees and briefings on proposals to change the law.
Bristol Home Office Research (2019)
In response to the 2016 Home Affairs Committee recommendation that sex workers on the street and working together in premises be decriminalized, the University of Bristol Centre for Gender and Violence Research was commissioned by the government to investigate. The ECP mobilized its network to give evidence to ensure sex workers voices were heard. The research published in November 2019 reflected much of this experience and found that “Austerity is pushing women into sex work and criminalisation is endangering them.”
Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Universal Credit and Survival Sex (2019)
Written and oral evidence from the ECP to the Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Universal Credit and Survival Sex focused on the impact of austerity on levels of prostitution in the UK. The Committee published its findings in November 2019 and recommended action against some of the worst injustices of the benefit system such as draconian sanctions and the five week delay to get Universal Credit which have increased destitution and pushed many more women into “survival sex”.
Women and Equalities Select Committee (WEC) Inquiry into Prostitution: How can we tackle inequalities and harm? (2019)
The remit of the WEC inquiry focused on the “inequalities and harms that sex workers experience at work and the harms associated with prostitution as a whole”. The ECP mobilized its network to submit evidence and ensure that the research didn’t interpret the question of “harm” in a way that reinforces the view that prostitution is inherently violent and exploitative, and that sex workers are vulnerable victims in need of saving by more police and repression.
The ECP’s written submission, which included the direct experience of 5 women in its network, emphasised the preventable harms that are inflicted on sex workers by arrests, raids and criminalisation generally, as well as the harm caused by austerity cuts.
Conservative Party Human Rights Commission Inquiry into the Reform of Prostitution Law (2018)
The ECP’s written and oral evidence focused on the intolerable poverty and increase in prostitution faced by women as a direct result of Conservative austerity cuts, as well as highlighting how destitution and criminalisation makes women and young people more vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
In 2019, the CHRC published its report ‘The Limits of Consent’ recommending the increased criminalisation of prostitution in the form of criminalising clients, despite overwhelming evidence that this would put sex workers at greater risk of attack. Throughout the whole 20,000-word report, austerity is not mentioned once. The word “poverty” appears just a single time.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution report into pop up brothels (2017)
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution, a self-appointed group of MPs, launched an inquiry into the claimed increase of ‘pop-up brothels’. The ECP response points out how this APPG was deeply biased from the start as it was set up specifically to “tackle the demand for the sex trade”, that is promote legislation to criminalise clients. Predictably the Committee ignored rising poverty caused by government economic policies and instead advocated increased police powers against sex workers to raid, arrest and close premises.
Home Affairs Select Committee Report (2016)
The ECP welcomed the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation in 2016 that the law be changed ” “so that soliciting [a charge used against street-based sex workers] is no longer an offence and so that brothel-keeping provisions allow sex workers to share premises”. Crucially the Committee also calls for a law to delete “previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers”. The ECP response gave credit for this victory to the international movement for decriminalisation spearheaded by grassroots sex workers over 40 years.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade (2014)
The ECP objected to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade report on the grounds that it was inherently biased as its stated aim was to ‘end demand for the sex trade’. Blatant inaccuracies in both the methodology and the content of the report were also criticised.
Modern Slavery Bill (2014)
In 2012 a Labour woman MP proposed an amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill to make the purchase of sex illegal. Initially she had cross party support but after a campaign spearheaded by the ECP which saw thousands of sex workers lobby their MP, she was forced to withdraw the proposal. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP spoke with great effect against the bill quoting sex workers concerns and the Safety First Coalition initiated by the ECP.
European Women’s Lobby (2012)
In December 2012 the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) held a conference in the European Parliament to demand a ban on the “purchase of sex”. The ECP response condemned the EWL for its reckless disregard of women’s lives for prioritising increased criminalisation at a time of increased poverty which was pushing more women, particularly mothers, into the sex industry to survive. It provided evidence that criminalising clients undermines sex workers’ safety.
Policing and Crime Act (2009)
The ECP campaigned against the 2010 Policing and Crime Act 2009, because it increased police powers to arrest women on the street and close premises where women were working in relative safety. But it was the clause that criminalized men for paying for sex with a prostitute forced or coerced that got the attention of the media and some politicians who campaigned for it under the false claim of equality ignoring evidence that criminalizing clients undermines sex workers’ safety. The Act was passed at the same time as a Welfare Reform Bill which cut benefits thus making it harder for any woman to refuse or leave prostitution.
Criminalisation of Purchase of Sex Act (Scotland)
In 2012 Rhoda Grant MSP put forward a proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex. The ECP response provides evidence that criminalising clients neither stops prostitution nor prevents sex workers from being criminalised. Fact and testimony are provided to counter the myths and misleading research put forward by Ms Grant. The ECP submission concludes with the demand for decriminalisation so that the safety of sex workers is prioritised over prosecution for prostitution offences.