Hundreds of sex workers, feminists and human rights activists mobilise outside Parliament against Trump-inspired law that would endanger sex workers and empower exploiters
On Wednesday July 4th, hundreds of sex workers, feminists and human rights activists took to the streets to oppose the introduction of dangerous and misguided, Trump-inspired legislation which would push sex workers off the internet, into the hands of exploitative managers and towards precarious outdoor sex work. Despite thousands of sex workers emailing MPs to attend the debate and speak out against these laws, not one MP attended to express their concerns, and so sex workers descended on Parliament Square to demand their voices were heard.
The demonstration was organised in the wake of a Westminster debate called by Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham. Her proposals would make it more difficult for sex workers to screen clients, share information about dangerous clients among themselves, or to connect with each other for support. Since the introduction of these laws in the USA, sex workers and their support services have recorded a stark rise in the number of sex workers working outdoors, or returning to exploitative managers to find clients, and an overall rise in violence.
During the debate, members of the APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade – a cross-party parliamentary group set up with the sole aim of criminalising the sex industry in England and Wales – called for the criminalisation of clients which would make it a criminal offence to pay for sex. Sex workers, human rights organisations and UN bodies have produced a wealth of research which shows that these laws do nothing to reduce the number of people selling sex. Instead, these laws increase the violence, stigma and the risk of incarceration sex workers face. For example, since the introduction of the ‘sex buyer law’ in Ireland, there has been a 61% increase in violence against sex workers in the 12 months since the law came into effect.
Michael Cashman CBE, Labour Peer, said:
“As a tireless advocate for equality and equal protection of the law for the rights of the LGBT community, I know that sex worker rights connect with every single one of us. The majority of transgender women murdered worldwide last year were sex workers. The stories behind these real lives need to be understood and their lives protected. The Labour Party must make a stand for sex workers rights – we must not be a part of any attempt to further marginalise them or criminalise them.”
Kirstie Douse, Head of Legal Services at Release, said:
“Laws of this kind conflate the issues of sex work and trafficking, assuming that everyone engaging in sex work is doing so because of some form of coercion. UK law already fails to protect sex workers, forcing them to work in unsafe conditions. This proposed legislation will remove the protections that sex workers have created for themselves, causing further isolation and marginalisation and increasing risks of criminalisation. The law does need changing – sex work and activities around it should be decriminalised!”
Lauren Tapp, National Ugly Mugs, said:
“Sarah Champion and her colleagues at the APPG on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade are willfully misleading the public by pushing for their proposals under the guise of ending trafficking. Criminalising sex workers, their clients or their advertising platforms will not stop trafficking, the criminalisation of sex work and of migration creates the vulnerability that fuels trafficking and exploitation. If politicians wish to help trafficking victims, they must begin with a commitment not to prosecute, detain or deport victims which we have seen time and time again.”
Valerie Smith, SWARM member, said:
“One of the most distressing moments listening to this debate was hearing Jess Phillips read Punternet reviews aloud and speculate on the number of clients I might see in a day – questioning whether it would be 13 or 100. That she would push for laws that would impact so negatively on sex workers’ livelihoods, while showing a bewildering lack of familiarity with what is actually involved in the work we do, is frustrating. Focusing on the opinions of our clients, rather than our consistent calls for decriminalisation and an improvement in our working conditions, shows the clear disgust and disdain she has for sex workers, regardless of what she tries to say about “saving” or “protecting” us.”
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