2007 and 2008 and accepted by the Trade Union Congress
8. PROSTITUTION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
This Conference recognises that the brutal murder of five young women in Ipswich just before Xmas shocked and touched people all over the country, lifting the lid on the violent world of street prostitution.
Over the last 10 years around 60 prostitutes have been murdered in England and Wales with just 16 arrests. Recent studies have found that:
- Two-thirds of sex workers have been violently attacked by their clients, with street prostitutes at greatest risk. Sex workers, especially street prostitutes, experience violence and abuse.
- They are 40 times more likely to be murdered than other women – a reflection of our society where violence against women is endemic.
- Over 90% of street prostitutes are hooked on drugs. Women are coerced and forced into selling their bodies by pimps, traffickers and economic necessity.
- Over 70% are mothers. Poverty, homelessness and debt as well as low pay, force women into prostitution to support themselves and their families.
The government’s consultation paper ‘Paying the Price’ has made no significant changes to the existing law. Police ‘crackdowns’ have been encouraged, particularly Asbos, and these, when breached, are a criminal offence leading to fines or even prison.
We call for:
- Decriminalisation not legislation. This would abolish all laws criminalising prostitutes, without institutionalising and legitimising it. No zones, no licensing, no legalised brothels.
- A massive expansion of drug rehabilitation schemes, aimed at getting addicts off drugs all together.
- Support services such as counselling, safe houses, help with housing, training and jobs, to provide a route out of prostitution.
- A huge increase in public funding in health, housing, childcare and other services.
Conference recognises that sex workers are workers and have the right to join a trade union though they should not be forced to sell their bodies to survive. Prostitution and violence against women will continue, whilst poverty and inequality in terms of power and wealth remain within our society, breeding violence, abuse, and economic an sexual exploitation. While some measures can make life less dangerous and harmful for women involved in prostitution, there will be no lasting solutions while poverty, inequality and sexual exploitation continue to exist.
26. DECRIMINALISATION OF SEX WORKERS
We welcome the Government’s decision to delete Clause 123 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which would have introduced “persistent soliciting” so that “soliciting for the purposes of offering services as a prostitute” is considered “persistent if it takes place on two or more occasions in any period of three months”.
We also welcome the deletion of Clauses 124 and 125, which would have introduced compulsory rehabilitation for prostitute women, requiring anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting to attend a series of three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court. Failure to comply would have resulted in a summons back to court and a possible 72-hours imprisonment.
All clauses were repressive and punitive and should be opposed at any stage in the future if the Government attempts to bring them back.
Sex workers are mothers and/or young people working to support themselves and their families. The most effective ways to deal with this situation is to provide resources to address the poverty, debt, low wages, rape and domestic violence, homelessness, drug use, depression or a combination of these, which drive many people to prostitution.
The Government’s recent proposals to take drug addicts off their benefits payments if they do not take part in treatment programmes is a further attack on the most vulnerable and must be opposed at all cost.
Any legislation that is introduced to criminalise sex workers will benefit no one. The number of women in prison has doubled in the past years, many of whom are sex workers. Imprisoning women for non-violent offences goes against recent recommendations in the widely respected 2007 Corston Report. As women are society’s primary carers, prison destroys families and punishes the thousands of children who are separated from their mothers’ love, guidance and concern.
We call on Conference to support the amendments propose by Lord Faulkner, which called for a re-definition of a brothel, if they are re-introduced. This stated that premises would not be regarded as a brothel where no more than two women with or without a maid were working together or separately on any given day and if it was a single enterprise. This is a much safer environment for sex workers than working as individuals on the streets. This would not apply if children, trafficking persons, serious and organised crime were involved and known drug dealing took place.