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Sex Workers Need Workers’ Rights not Criminalisation!


Laura Watson, ECP, speaks at next Brighton & Hove LRC meeting

7.30pm, Tuesday 7 October 2014

The Mesmerist, 1-3 Prince Albert Street, Brighton BN1 1HE

Sex Workers Rights Are Human Rights

On Tuesday 7 October, Brighton & Hove LRC will be in the ground floor meeting room of The Mesmerist, for a friendly and informal chat with Laura Watson, spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP).  The ECP is a self-help network of sex workers of different nationalities and backgrounds, working in different areas of the sex industry – both on the streets and indoors.  The ECP campaigns to end the criminalisation of sex workers – which undermines safety – and for housing, higher benefits, wages and other resources – to enable sex workers to get out of prostitution if they want to.  The ECP also provides daily support and information to sex workers on legal, discrimination, health and other issues.

ECP logo

In July 2014, the French Senate rejected proposals to criminalise sex workers’ clients after in-depth consultations found that people were alarmed about the danger this caused to sex workers.  The Senate Select Committee received compelling evidence that sex workers’ clients, anxious about being fined, could force sex workers into isolation where they would be at increased risk of violence.  Further, the French police association said that criminalising clients would make it more difficult to dismantle pimping networks as clients would not dare to speak out.

STRASS, the French Union of Sex Workers commented: “the Senate Select Committee has taken the time to organise real hearings, to listen to all points of view, including those of national and international health and human rights organisations and considered the evidence of the negative impact of the criminalisation of clients of sex workers. Above all, the Senate Select Committee has taken into account the voices of those first concerned, sex workers themselves.”

No woman is safe if prostitutes aren't safe

In December 2013, Canada’s Supreme Court annulled prostitution laws which were “dangerous” for sex workers and infringed their constitutional rights. Beverley McLachlin, President of the Supreme Court, wrote: “Parliament has the power to regulate the damage caused, but not at the cost of the health, security and life of a prostitute”.

Currently buying and selling sex in Great Britain is legal but “pimping” and the ownership or running of brothels are illegal.  Recently the debate around prostitution in the UK has been dominated by moralists who fail to engage with sex workers.  Consequently, a UK parliamentary investigation has proposed to follow the Nordic model where buying sex is a criminal act.  Now UK sex workers are protesting.

ECP demo with Thierry


Sex workers have fought tirelessly against criminalisation proposals in every country where this dangerous approach has threatened safety and livelihoods. UK politicians still supporting the failed Nordic Model must consider the mounting evidence against it.  If you are thinking of contacting your MP or Labour candidate, take a look at “Hands Off Our Clients” campaign of the ICRSE – a pan-European organisation of sex workers.  Or consider the July 2014 report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which reaffirms that criminalisation of sex work is an obstacle to HIV prevention.  Also in July 2014, The Lancet published “calls for the decriminalisation of sex work, in the global effort to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic“.

Hands Off Our Clients_ICRSE

In 2003, the New Zealand Prostitution Act decriminalized prostitution “while not endorsing or morally sanctioning prostitution or its use”.  A framework was created to safeguard the human rights of sex workers, protect them from exploitation, promote sex workers’ welfare and occupational health & safety, as well as public health, and to prohibit the prostitution of under 18s.  This is a model the UK should adopt.

New Zealand allowed up to four people to work together from premises with each sex worker keeping control over their own earnings. If more than four people work, an “operator” must obtain a licence from the local authority.  Importantly, New Zealand has reinforced offences against compelling anyone into prostitution, gave sex workers the specific right to refuse any client, and gave local authorities powers to inspect premises on health and safety grounds.  Five years after decriminalisation was introduced, New Zealand’s Review Committee reported that there had been no increase in prostitution, and that sex workers were more able to report violence and leave prostitution.

Safety for Sex Workers

Supporting human rights and workers’ rights for sex workers has been shown to be a better basis than criminalisation for any serious change to prostitution law and policy.  It removes prostitution from the criminal law, allows people to work together collectively, and distinguishes between violence and consenting sex.  Crucially, it has been shown to improve sex workers’ working conditions, while making it easier for those who want to get out, to do so.

Come along on Tuesday 7 October to discuss these issues with Brighton & Hove LRC and the English Collective of Prostitutes.  Afterwards, you might like  to consider the ECP’s recommendations for changes in law and policy and to sign the ECP’s pledge to decriminalise sex work for safety’s sake – and ask your MP and Labour candidates to do the same.

B&H LRC’s last meeting in 2014 will be on Tuesday 2 December.  More news of this meeting is available in our events listings.




Outlaw Poverty Not Prostitutes

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