This is a briefing we ( prostitutescollective.net
) have prepared against a clause to the Modern Slavery Bill which aims to criminalise sex workers' clients.
Please send your objections (model letter below) to the clause as soon as possible. It will be discussed next Tuesday 4 November in the Report Stage of the Bill. Please send letters to the Chair of the Modern Slavery Bill Committee
Frank Field MP
, the rest of the committee
and to John McDonnell MP
Briefing against clauses to the Modern Slavery Bill to prohibit the purchase of sexual services.
An amendment and two clauses to the Modern Slavery Bill put forward by Fiona Mactaggart MP aim to make the purchase of sex illegal, remove the criminal sanctions against prostituted women and provide support to women who want to leave prostitution
We support the amendment which would remove the offence of loitering and soliciting for women working on the street . This decriminalisation should be extended to sex workers working from premises. The brothel-keeping legislation should be amended so
that women can work more safely together. In 2006, the Home Office acknowledged: . . . the present definition of brothel ran counter to advice that, in the interests of safety, women should not sell sex alone.
We strongly oppose the clauses criminalising clients , on the basis of women's safety. Criminalising clients does not stop prostitution, nor does it stop the criminalisation of women. It drives prostitution further underground, making it more dangerous
and stigmatising for women.
Any benefit from decriminalising loitering and soliciting will be cancelled if clients are criminalised. Women will have to go underground if clients are underground. Kerb-crawling legislation has already made it more dangerous for prostitute women and
men. In Scotland, since kerb-crawling legislation was introduced in October 2007, the number of assaults on sex workers have soared. Attacks reported to one project almost doubled in one year from 66 to 126.
Many of the claims that have been made about the impact of the 1999 Swedish law which criminalised clients are false and have no evidential basis.
The Swedish law has not resulted in a reduction in sex trafficking.
The Swedish law has not reduced prostitution.
Since the criminalisation of clients the treatment of sex workers in Sweden has worsened. (Please see Appendix for examples).
Evidence from sex workers has been ignored.
The criminalisation of clients increases women's vulnerability to violence.
The Safety First Coalition formed after the murder of five women in Ipswich opposes the criminalisation of clients.
Claims that prostitution is an extreme form of exploitation are counterproductive and ignore the economic reality that many women face.
An unholy alliance with homophobic religious fundamentalists.
The successful New Zealand model has been ignoredexamples being ignored?
The public support decriminalisation of prostitution on grounds of safety
The criminalisation of clients has been rejected in Scotland  and in France.
...Read the full article
Update: The sex workers lobby
4th November 2014. See article
Sex workers and campaigners joined forces in the House of Commons to lobby against sections of new Bill which would criminalise clients.
Members of the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) argued that some clauses of the Modern Slavery Bill could increase the dangers faced by sex workers. ECP spokeswoman Niki Adams said:
We strongly oppose the criminalisation of clients, on the basis of women's safety. Despite claims that loitering and soliciting may be decriminalised, this will have little effect if clients are criminalised.
Prostitution will be pushed further underground, disrupting informal security systems among women on the street and displacing women into remote areas.
Offering solidarity at the event were members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos said:
It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to criminalise individuals who are consenting adults having sex.
On health alone it is not sensible to criminalise people because it changes their behaviour and puts them at risk.
Update: Amendment withdrawn
4th November 2014. See parliamentary debate transcription
Fiona Taggart's amendment to criminalise the buying of sex was withdrawn without a vote.
The government and many MPs didn't seem to have an appetite to include controversial elements to a bill seemingly enjoying the support of most MPs. The only debate was that Labour wanted to go further than the Tories in measures against the wider remit
As soon as the topic of prostitution was raised it was clearly that some sort of decision had already being taken. An amendment was proposed that would require the government to review prostitution policy. It seemed widely accepted that far reaching
changes of policy on prostitution would be better addressed with some sort of formal reviews being undertaken first. Even Fiona Taggart seemed to concur that it would be better to go this route rather than suddenly declaring large numbers of men to be
criminals. So her amendment did not proceed after these comments and was presumably withdrawn.
But the Taggart's speech triggered a few strong pro and anti speeches that gave a flavour of the controversy the government seemed keen to avoid.
The amendment to require the review was defeated in a vote. However it did seem to reflect an approach that went down well with MPs. The timing of being at the end of the 5 year term of this parliament seemed to make it all a bit doubtful for the
moment...but the idea has been implanted for the future.
Update: The sex workers are unsurprisingly well pleased
6th November 2014. See article
We won! Our collective mobilisation defeated the amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill put forward by Fiona Mactaggart MP which would have criminalised clients. It dropped without even going to a vote. Another amendment put forward by Yvette Cooper MP,
Shadow Home Secretary, calling for a review of the links between prostitution and human trafficking and sexual exploitation was put forward as an alternative to Mactaggart's but that was also defeated.
This is a massive victory for the campaign against the further criminalisation of sex work. Hundreds of people and organisations responded to the call to write to MPs. The briefing in Parliament on Monday night, that we organised at very short notice,
drew a good crowd. The impressive line-up of speakers included sex workers speaking about the impact the clause would have on their work, Hampshire Women's Institute, Women Against Rape, student representatives, academics and union reps, queers and
anti-racists opposed to this further discrimination. Questions from the MPs (Tories, Labour and Lib-Dem) elicited a productive and informative discussion.
MP John McDonnell's contribution to the debate in the Commons today was outstanding -- we have been worked closely with him over many years, including on defeating this measure. He made reference to the wide range of opposition, quoting from some of the
many briefings and letters people had sent him, and countered the false claims put forward by those promoting criminalisation.
As a result of so many people acting so quickly and so effectively we are now in a stronger position to demand full decriminalisation.