Thousands of people responded to a call to action this week and lobbied their MP to speak against proposals to ban sex workers advertising online. Thanks to everyone who wrote.
We write now to ask for your help with another urgent action. The government has commissioned research on prostitution and it would be great if as many sex worker and allies as possible give evidence.
The survey can be filled in online here. The deadline is 16 July.
Please send a copy of your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org (When you click ‘finish’, click to view your submission and download a PDF copy)
How this came about
In 2016 the Home Affairs Committee’s published its excellent report on Prostitution (Third Report of Session 2016-17) which recommended that sex workers on the street and working together in premises be decriminalised. Specifically, that:
“ . . . the Home Office change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and so that brothel-keeping provisions allow sex workers to share premises.”
The Committee’s report also recommended legislation to provide for the “deletion of previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers”.
If these recommendations were implemented it would immediately improve sex workers’ safety and welfare.
In response to the report, the University of Bristol Centre for Gender and Violence Research has been commissioned by the Home Office and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales to investigate (a) the nature and (b) the prevalence of prostitution and sex work in England and Wales.
Anyone who saw the Westminster Hall debate yesterday on banning online ads and criminalising clients, will have heard the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Victoria Atkins state how important this research is:
“As a Minister, however, I cannot proceed only on the basis of compelling, heart-breaking stories; I have to proceed on the basis of evidence. That is why we have commissioned research through the University of Bristol to understand the scale and nature of prostitution in the 21st century”
The Centre for Gender and Violence Research is not impartial. It gave evidence in favour of criminalising sex workers’ clients (the Nordic Model) at the Home Affairs Committee inquiry. Professor Marianne Hester OBE who is heading the research also supports the Nordic Model.
If they don’t hear directly from sex workers, the research is more likely to interpret the questions of “the nature” and even extent of the sex industry in a way that reinforces the view that prostitution is inherently violent and exploitative, and sex workers are vulnerable victims.
It’s crucial that we use the sections (9 and 11 and particularly 13 and 14) to give our views and submit any evidence we have.
We make some suggestions below:
Q 9 of the survey asks: Is there any particular study, report or other publication that you think it is important that we pay attention to for this project? Please give details.
Amnesty International. (2016). The Human Cost of ‘Crushing’ the Market: Criminalization of Sex Work in Norway. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur36/4034/2016/en/
English Collective of Prostitutes. (2016). Decriminalisation of Prostitution: the Evidence. https://prostitutescollective.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Online-Symposium-Report.pdf
France: “Since the law criminalising clients was introduced, 63% of sex workers have experienced deterioration of their living conditions, more isolation and greater stress; 42% are more exposed to violence.” Medecins du Monde. (2018). What do sex workers think about the French Prostitution Act? http://www.sexworkeurope.org/sites/default/files/userfiles/files/EN_synthesis_SW_final_2.pdf
New Zealand: “Since decriminalisation, over 90% of sex workers said they had additional employment, legal, health and safety rights.” Abel, G., Fitzgerald, L. & Brunton, C. (2007). The Impact of the. Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers. https://www.otago.ac.nz/christchurch/otago018607.pdf
Northern Ireland: “Reported incidences of violent crime against sex workers, have risen by almost 50% since the introduction of the law to criminalise clients.” The Irish Times, 4 September 2017. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/dramatic-rise-in-attacks-on-sex-workers-since-law-change-1.3208370
Sweden: “63% of sex workers said the sex purchase law had created more prejudice from the authorities.” Jakobsson, P. & Edlund, C. (2014). Another Horizon; Sex Work and HIV Prevention in Sweden. http://www.hiv-sverige.se/wp-content/uploads/En-annan-horisont-webb.pdf
Open Society Foundations 10 Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work:
Q 11 of the survey asks: are there particular individuals or groups that you believe we need to speak to? Please give details.
English Collective of Prostitutes https://prostitutescollective.net/.
New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) http://www.nzpc.org.nz/.
Q 13 of the survey asks: do you have an experience that you think would help us to understand better what prostitution and sex work looks like today in England and Wales? If so, please give details.
This is the chance to relate your experience. Some suggestions on what to cover include: what would make you safer, why you went into sex work and if you want to leave what is preventing you from being able to do so. It is especially important to relay any experience you have of the police. Have you been raided, arrested, charged or convicted of any offence? Have you tried to report violence? How did the police treat you?
Q 14 of the survey asks: please add any other comments in this section.
Please say if you support the decriminalisation of sex work and if so, why. More information available here.
DEADLINE IS THE CLOSE OF MONDAY 16 JULY 2018.
PLEASE SEND A COPY OF YOUR SUBMISSION TO ECP@PROSTITUTESCOLLECTIVE.NET