Safe Sex

There are new laws being proposed that will give councils the power to close down brothels, “name and shame” clients, outlaw paying for sex with someone controlled for another’s gain and make kerb-crawling punishable as a first offense. The bill is due for a second reading on 12 January.

Before getting into an over-heated and lurid debate about the perceived rights and wrongs of the sex industry, and the best ways to stop trafficking, I want to start with a very basic problem inherent in the legislation. It puts people at risk. Specifically it puts disproportionate numbers of women at risk. They are put at risk by being increasingly isolated, being driven underground and by criminalising more people (thus driving them to act more secretively and therefore less accountably).

The proposals are opposed by the English Collective of Prostitutes, the International Union of Sex Workers and the Metropolitan police’s anti-trafficking unit, as well as a range of MPs from various parties, such as Chris Huhne (LibDem) and Dominic Grieve (Con).

If the people involved with prostitutes’ groups are not being consulted about appropriate safeguards or support requirements then we are putting ideology above the rights of people. Experience of similar legislation elsewhere bears out the concerns about the Home Office proposal.

Even before this legislation is enacted in England and Wales, the figures for attacks on prostitutes are horrific. Let’s not make them worse by getting sidetracked about the arguments for and against the sex trade. I quote from Caroline Shepherd at Feministe:

"These laws as they are far from ideal; a look back at the attacks of sex workers in England reported in the media this year alone very clearly demonstrate their vulnerability –

These are the cases that made it to court and the papers, God knows how many attacks happen that don’t even make it to the police station. Clearly, there is a group of women in society that are being completely and utterly let down by the law."

If you agree with me, sign the petition at the YouGov website not to introduce legislation on prostitution until after the next election and write to your MP about this Bill.

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