The following article was submitted as a discussion piece by a fan of Harlots called John. The proposals he is championing in this piece are controversial and personally I would give his ideas little support and I know that the IUSW of which I am a member would definitely not support the suggestions contained in this article.
I have decided to allow (after discussion with colleagues) this piece to appear however because it raises issues that we do have to address in our campaign work. It is a piece that should make us think about the reality of legalisation or decriminalisation and how it may affect our working conditions for good and bad. I hope therefore that this piece will be discussed and comments made on why it is unworkable or alternatively perhaps there are those who support the ideas made by John.
I would like to suggest a scheme for regulating sex work. To do this I believe that it is necessary to define a legal prostitute, a legal customer and a protocol for validating them that would be mandatory for both parties.
So a legal prostitute is someone who is:
Not known to Social Services for childhood sexual exploitation;
Not illegally using controlled substances;
Not married, unless a pre-nuptial agreement accepts prostitution as valid employment;
In possession of a mobile phone, charged and in credit during working hours;
Subject to valid health certification (see below: Protocol);
and a legal client is someone who is:
Not known to the police for violence towards prostitutes in particular, women in general;
Not married unless a pre-nuptial agreement accepts the use of prostitutes as a valid activity;
In possession of a mobile phone, charged and in credit during party time;
Subject to valid health certification (see below: Protocol).
To validate this legality I propose a protocol that is based on compulsory medical screening of both workers and clients.
To facilitate safe and profitable encounters for prostitutes and and their (hopefully) myriad customers I propose that all prostitutes and all customers register at a GUM clinic where they must leave a mobile phone number as part of their ID. They will then be screened for relevant problems and their clearance entered into a GUM national database, which would be a medical record and so subject to privacy.
On contact with a prostitute the client must offer her his mobile number and she must do likewise to him. Both people then text a national number (’69’ would be nice!) with the message of each being the phone number of the other. ’69’ would be the number of a GUM database which then automatically checks the status of both people and texts back to each either “Up to date” or “Unknown” or some such messages to indicate that the parties were up to date with medical checks, or not.
The database processes the information it receives about individuals and issues “Time for a checkup” type notices depending on how busy you are, so need to go for one if you’re having a quiet time. Failure to attend would result in your status being downgraded. Regulated data retention would allow the GUM people to trace the contacts of anyone found to be a problem and warn them that they should, or must, attend for a check-up.
Membership of this scheme would be compulsory for anyone wanting to be or to use the services of sex workers. It would be illegal for a would-be client to proposition a sex worker with intent to party if he was not currently checked up. Likewise it would be illegal to trade as a sex worker without such clearance. Obviously, people who could not meet my definition of “legal” could not gain validation so could not legally be involved in commercial sex work.
I submit this for your scrutiny in good faith so please criticise it in the same spirit. I know registration is a thorny topic with many, but without it I believe headway will be not be won against those who would condemn us.