On Wednesday 9 December, Dame Diana Johnson MP, introduced a Ten-Minute Rule motion to Parliament which aims to criminalise the purchase of sex. The legislation, known as the Nordic model, which is coming back to Parliament for its second reading on the 29 January, also seeks to criminalise online sites which sex workers use to advertise their work.
Johnson is trying to introduce this law under the guise of reducing sex trafficking. In reality, if passed it will drive sex workers further underground and into greater danger, whilst forcing more women into destitution at a time when Covid-19 has already pushed millions into poverty.
Sex workers, trade unionists, women’s and human rights organisations briefed MPs against the motion and thousands of people wrote to their MP with the template letter from SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement).
Lyn Brown MP, strongly opposed the Bill and gave a compelling speech on how this legislation in countries where it has been introduced, has failed to reduce trafficking, has led to an increase in violence against sex workers and has made it harder for women to report crimes against them to the police.
Compelling speech today by @lynbrownmp against a dangerous 10-Minute Rule motion which would criminalise sex workers clients saying it “will put women at greater risk”. #MakeAllWomenSafe https://t.co/XN1LU5PmKn pic.twitter.com/t1UrrCfGuI— English Collective of Prostitutes ♀️ ⚧️ (@ProstitutesColl) December 9, 2020
Labour MP tables controversial bill to criminalise buying sex. Sex workers say it would put their lives in danger, Pink News.
“This week, like every week since the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, the ECP and other organisations have been giving out emergency payments and food vouchers to sex workers worried how they are going to make ends meet and get through Christmas,” said Laura Watson from the ECP. “If women MPs want to help women exit prostitution they should be supporting this lifesaving work, targeting benefit sanctions and demanding money for mothers, not proposing legislation that further criminalises sex work which will inevitably drive it further underground, making it harder and more dangerous for women.”
Men who pay for sex fuel ‘brutal sex trafficking trade’, senior MP says as she proposes law to bust the business, Evening Standard.
“A woman from a collective of sex workers in East London added: ‘I am wholeheartedly against the criminalisation of our customers. We will be forced back onto the backstreet alleys and made as vulnerable overnight as women were in Victorian days. We won’t be able to feed our kids, we will lose our places of safety, our incomes and any peace of mind. At best we will be forced into poverty then debt then maybe living on the streets. What fool came up with this idea.’”
“In criminalising clients, as we know from countries like France and Ireland where the law has been introduced, violence against sex workers increases. You are forced out into more isolated areas to avoid attention from the police, you don’t have time to negotiate, you are running from the police and you just have to jump in the car and go. Violent men take advantage of that.”
Labour MP fiercely criticised for proposing legislation which would criminalise buying sex, The Independent.
“The idea that feminist politicians are choosing to interfere with one of the ways women – particularly mothers – have found to survive, at this moment of crisis when destitution and poverty is increasing, is outrageous.”
Labour MP: Sex punters should be criminalised to ‘bust business model of sex trafficking’, Morning Star.
The English Collective of Prostitutes said it was among those who briefed MPs against the motion, arguing that such a law would not necessarily result in less trafficking. The group said it was “disgusted” that a female Labour MP would propose the Bill “at the time of a pandemic which has exacerbated poverty, homelessness and debt.”
“By criminalising paying for sex, Johnson’s bill would shrink sex workers’ client pool, leaving them with less freedom to turn down clients. . . A client who is risking arrest is more likely to insist a worker enters a car in a rush, or that they meet in an unsafe, unfamiliar place. Reduced demand means workers have to minimise their screening processes and accept clients they otherwise wouldn’t, as well as lower their prices.”
Criminalising buying sex will harm vulnerable women, not help them, The Independent.
“It must be noted that women, of which account for 88 per cent of sex workers in the UK, are nearly always working in the sex trade due to a connection with poverty. Some women are desperate to stay afloat, and sex work is giving them a lifeline to stay above water. To take their livelihood away from them puts women and their families in danger of food poverty, homelessness, and destitution.”