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submission to the parliamentary inquiry into prostitution.

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HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

Submission to the Parliamentary inquiry

into Prostitution:

This is the written evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into prostitution made by Douglas Fox on Behalf of The Harlots Collective. The Harlots Collective is a collective of sex workers based here in the United Kingdom and with representation from around the world, including Canada and the United States of America. I am a gay male sex worker with over 16 years experience of selling sex in the United Kingdom.

The Harlots Collective makes this submission because as current UK sex workers our voices are the only genuinely relevant source of lived first hand experience witnessing the direct effect of government policy on our lives and on our work.

Contact details:

www.harlotsparlour.com

email dearharlot@googlemail.com

Tel 07971 158593

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Contents :

1 The Home Affairs Committee asks:

Whether criminal sanction in relation to prostitution should continue to fall more heavily on those who sell sex, rather than those who buy it.

1a. Sex Workers are not a homogeneous group.

1b. Sex workers totally reject any justification for their criminalisation.

1c. Criminalising either the sex worker or their clients is a clear breach

of human rights.

2. The Home office committee asks:

What the implications are for prostitution-related

offences of the Crown Prosecution Service’s recognition of

prostitution as violence against women.

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2a. Undoubtedly it is the crown prosecution itself that is the commits violence against women (and men) engaging in sex work:

Consent a:

Survival b:

Austerity c:

3 The Home Office Committee asks:

What impact the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has had to date to deter trafficking for purposes of prostitution, what further action is planned, and how effectively the impact is being measured.

Whether further measures are necessary, including legal reforms, to:

Assist those involved in prostitution to exit from it

Increase the extent to which exploiters are held to account

Discourage demand which drives commercial sexual exploitation.

3a. Modern Slavery Act 2015:

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3b. An increased mistrust.

3c. A presumption of victim hood.

3d. Child exploitation.

3e. Trafficking.

3f. There exists no justification.

3g. Exiting sex work.

3h. Targeting exploiters.

3i. Punitive legislation.

4. In Conclusion.

5. References: References and essential reading.

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  1. 1. The Home Affairs Committee asks:

    Whether criminal sanction in relation to prostitution should continue to fall more heavily on those who sell sex, rather than those who buy it.

1a Sex workers are not a homogeneous group but a diverse cacophony of individuals with a wide variety of experiences of sexwork. Sex work itself covers a spectrum of working practice.

Within prostitution this includes working independently, through third parties (brothels, agency) and street work. People defined as sex workers can include those offering full sexual services, specialised sexual services or non direct sexual services.

1b Sex workers reject totally any justification for their criminalisation. The evidence of independent and methodically accredited academic research overwhelmingly concurs with sex worker groups that the majority of sex work is consensual. Consensual sex between consenting adults should not be a criminal offence simply because a sex worker offers a consenting service for fiscal renumeration.

Sex work reflects and demands the normalised perspectives that define all work. Work requires consent, requires preparation, requires diligent application of a wide variety of skills, including time management, ability to interact socially, communication and people management. Other useful skills include book keeping and marketing and increasingly basic IT skills. Essentially the skills required of a wide variance of self employed professionals. A survey of sex workers undertaken by Dr Teela Sanders of Leeds university examining the previous professions of sex workers revealed that 70% of sex workers had previously worked as health care professionals, in education or in charities and more than a third held university degrees. Existing UK law however denies sex workers the right to employ a third party to perform specific duties, from marketing, taking appointments, organising travel etc. The law also prevents sex workers from working together, from sharing the costs of working premises, denies sex workers the security and protection that such arrangements would provide.

Denying sex workers these basic civil rights is a direct breach of the human rights charter of which the UK is a signatory.

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Sex workers ask why the committee is not looking at New Zealand where a model of excellence exists in regard to legislation of sex work. New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003. The Christ Church School of Medicine found that over 90% of sex workers in New Zealand found that decriminalisation gave them additional employment rights, legal and health and safety rights, found it easier to refuse clients and were more likely to report incidents to the police.

The committee also asks if criminalisation should continue to fall on the seller of sexual services. Sex workers reject totally both the

criminalisation of themselves or of their clients to whom they consent to sell sex. Criminalising clients of consensual sex does not stop sex work or even diminish it but instead, as evidence illustrates repeatedly, only pushes sex work underground and out of sight. The evidentially observed results of criminalising clients reduces the negotiating ability of the sex worker by forcing rushed decisions, a practice that could be fatal, especially for the most vulnerable sex workers, street workers and those forced by law to work alone. Criminalising clients creates an atmosphere in which criminals can easily exploit vulnerable sex workers forced to work secretly and aliened from resources such as supportive projects and the police. The majority of sex workers already fear the police and if clients were criminalised sex workers would further fear that contact with the police would result in clients being vulnerable to arrest. When the law enforces through fear or/and intimidation further isolates sex workers the result is a marked reduction in access to support, vital for those sex workers who are trapped within situations that are coercive or/and violent. This has been the experience of sex workers in countries that have adopted the Swedish feminist (ideologically inspired) legislation which specifically targets and criminalises clients in order to coerce sex workers to give up sex work. A 2014 Vancouver study found that policing strategies that target clients ….”profoundly impacted the safety structures employed by sex workers and had little or no effect on demand.”

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1c Criminalising either the sex worker or the client or both is

directly a breach of human rights and dignity and against the adopted policy of human rights organisations including Amnesty International and UNAIDS, WHO, UNDP, and the UN Population Fund and the ignores the advice of the Royal College of Nursing of the School of Public Health and many sex work projects throughout the UK who work directly with sex workers, especially those considered the most vulnerable. These groups and organisations support decriminalisation of sex work and totally oppose criminalisation of either the sex worker or of their clients as being ineffective in either limiting or eradicating sex work while increasing substantially risks.

2 The Home office committee asks:

What the implications are for prostitution-related

offences of the Crown Prosecution Service’s recognition of

prostitution as violence against women.

2a Undoubtedly it is the crown prosecution itself that commits

violence against women (and men) working as sex workers by prosecuting women (and men) for sex work related crimes, soliciting, brothel keeping, refusing to recognise consent in trafficking related cases, controlling for gain and proceed of crime legislation which confiscates goods and monies earned by sex workers (or third parties, real or alleged). It should be noted that street workers report that 80% of their income is taken in fines. If the crown prosecution is seriously concerned about reducing violence against women in sex work then it must consider the following:

Consent: (a)Independent academic evidence confirms that the majority of sex workers have made a consenting choice to sell sex.

Sex workers ask that their consent be recognised and that they be given equal protection under the law with that expected by other British workers. Sex workers ask this inquiry to understand that refusal to recognise their choice and their consent and to continue to criminalise sex workers or their clients directly increases risk to their lives, alienates them from the community and from accessing the support of services designed to offer advice on health, safety and on exiting. Treating sex workers differently from other UK workers perpetuates stigma and alientation from society which has repercussions in terms of the mental health of sex workers, especially on those minority of survival sex workers who are recognised as including some of the most marginalised and vulnerable women (and men) in society

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Survival: (b) The inquiry should also recognise that a small percentage of sex workers engage in survival sex. Survival sex applies to those who sell sex because no other options exist to make money or to simply survive, who sell sex to feed substance dependency or who are migrant, perhaps illegal, women (and men) who turn to sex work when other options are not available to live, that is to purchase food, accommodation, heating and clothing, feed children, etc. These vulnerable women (and men) should not be treated as criminals but offered support which should include ways of exiting sex work if they want to. By criminalising these sex workers the law aggravates their isolation and alienation from society. This is true for all sex workers but especially harmful for the most vulnerable because the law itself destroys chances to exit sex work. Because many of the most vulnerable sex workers work on the street, where they are arrested and fined, those criminal convictions follow them throughout their lives. Criminalisation of either sex workers, third parties or clients also increases the risk of sex workers being targetted by criminals who recognise that the law actively leaves sex workers vulnerable to exploitation, to direct violence both physical and mental and even to rape and murder.

Austerity: (c) We live in times of austerity which affects the most vulnerable women (and men) in society experientially. Criminalising those women who turn to sex work in order to survive is very real violence imposed by the state which does not deter or stop sex work. Many are single mothers, often trapped in poverty, caught in abusive relationships, who sell sex as a last resort. Criminalising them or their clients intensifies and perpetuates their isolation, increases social stigma and denies them access to the support of the police or from agencies offering health, social care, including exiting strategies. Criminalising clients, evidence repeatedly illustrates, does not reduce demand but does reduce the ability of sex workers to make informed decisions, organise safety structures and programmes and while it may deter initially some clients it will not deter those clients who are undeterred by the law, the very clients whom normally sex workers would refuse. The knock on effect of criminalisation, especially of clients is rushed negotiations, increased coercion to practice unsafe sex which ultimately reflects upon the health of greater society, greater risk of physical and psychological violence toward sex workers and increased stigma and social alienation.

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3 The Home Office Committee asks:

What impact the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has had to deter trafficking for purposes of prostitution, what further action is planned, and how effectively the impact is being measured.

Whether further measures are necessary, including legal reforms, to:

Assist those involved in prostitution to exit from it

Increase the extent to which exploiters are held to account

Discourage demand which drives commercial sexual exploitation.

 

3a. The Modern Day Slavery act has served to further alienate sex workers from accessing support. The act has further increased stigma and negatively affected the most vulnerable sex workers, the very sex workers that the act allegedly presumed to target as victims of exploitation. Negatively the act has encouraged police forces and other agencies to target sex workers with a presumption that they are victims of exploitation which results in:

3b. A presumption of victim hood by authorities and which also

permeates this inquiry along with a noticed lack of interest in consulting with and listening to the people directly affected by government legislation. Refusing to recognise sex worker voices results in mistakes being repeated and in the most vulnerable sex workers suffering the most because of lack of consultation.

3c. An increased mistrust between sex workers and authorities and especially between those best placed to inform of suspected exploitation. These are third parties, clients and other sex workers who mistrust the intentions of the police. It is estimated that victims of trafficking and coercion and slave labour are 9 times more likely to exist in occupations outside of sex work and sex workers ask why then are they made special targets of interest to be “saved”. This peculiar obsession with sex work is especially odd considering that academic research suggests that less than 6% of sex workers are trafficked.

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3d. Underage and child exploitation is often cited as evidence of trafficking and exploitation but child exploitation should not be judged as being in any way compatible with sex work. Children, especially vulnerable children are more often the victims of a failure of those charged with their care and support. The term trafficked is often used, referencing trafficking of children for sexual exploitation as being the same as or similar to trafficking for sex work involving consenting adults. There often seem to be a deliberate confusing of the public media and government by the wording and application of the law when adult sex work and child exploitation and trafficking should be understood as different and treated very differently.

3e. Trafficking is a term applied too often in cases where the consent of the adult sex worker is ignored. Conflating the trafficking of adult sex workers with coercion and even slavery needs to be more clearly defined to acknowledge the variances which exist within the realms of how this term “trafficking” is used. There often seems to be a moral imperative to use the term “trafficking’ as a catch all phrase to justify raids and prosecutions of sex workers or third parties who work with consenting adult sex workers. If a situation is consenting then by definitions no slavery, no coercion exists. Arguments are made that victims of sex trafficking are often psychologically damaged and therefore do not recognise that they are being exploited. This seems to be a convenient excuse for the application of subjective morality to justify laws to target sex workers, increase their alienation and social stigma. This may be the real reason for negative legislation but if that is the case then pretending that those laws are in the interest of sex workers is disingenuous.

3f. There exists no justification for the Crown Prosecution Service to target sex workers without recognising consent to sell sex and the human rights of sex workers to be safe and to make use, if they wish, of third parties, or to work together for safety, companionship and fiscal propriety. Despite government claims on prioritising victims of trafficking a parliamentary committee in 2005 found that they are frequently deprived of “protection, access to services and justice” and “treated as immigration offenders facing detention and removal.” Indeed it has been noted that trafficking law rather than being about rescue has been used to target migrant sex workers for deportation.

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3g. Exiting sex work must be a choice made by informed workers who have access to information and if needed assistance. If the law and this inquiry are serious in helping sex workers exit sex work then criminalising sex workers and their clients only traps those workers within the sex industry.

Criminal convictions stop sex workers from leaving the industry, stigma stops sex workers from leaving the industry, fear and mistrust of the police stops sex workers leaving the industry and most singularly, enforced isolation results in sex workers not being able to access information and assistance which, especially for the most vulnerable sex workers, is essential if they are to exit sex work. Those especially vulnerable sex workers often need years of support which costs money. If the committee is serious then a commitment to the long term funding of exiting programmes that work with sex workers, that recognise and support their decision to exit or remain within sex work is essential. Poverty, especially for those involved in survival sex, is not ended through criminalisation of either the sex worker or the client. Long term social investment and support for vulnerable groups and individuals should be considered separately in terms of legislation. The vast majority of sex workers who choose sex work demand equality with other workers in terms of support and recognition, rather than legislation that presumes them victims.

3h. Targeting exploiters is a contentious and loaded sentiment. Who are the exploiters? Clients are not exploiters of consenting sex workers and neither are third parties who provide services to assist sex workers. If you want to stop exploitation within commercial sex then you must recognise the sex worker as a legitimate worker and provide them support when needed to challenge exploitation if and when it occurs either by customers, third parties or by criminals. This can only be done through decriminalisation of sex work. Further criminalisation simply does not work. Sex work thrives in countries where punitive measure

exist against sex workers, clients and third parties. In those countries, such as Sweden and the USA, where clients are targeted, sex work is pushed underground and although information and genuine statistics are therefore hard to obtain it is acknowledged, even by the Swedish government, that sex work thrives, although they do not know to what extent, if it has increased, decreased or remained static. Independent evidence suggests that sex work and the availability of foreign sex workers has increased in Sweden. A recent survey by UK wide Ugly Mugs scheme of sex workers in the UK confirmed that 9 out of 10 sex workers were against criminalising their clients.

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3i. Punitive legislation does not stop commercial sex work. Countries around the world have tried different approaches and the only surety is that criminalisation increases exploitative opportunities for criminals to target sex workers. The only positive example anywhere in the world where sex workers rights are protected, where the right to exit or to remain within sex work is recognised and where exploitative practices are dealt with through empowering sex workers to collectivise, unionise and where the trust between the police and sex workers is positive and beneficial and successfully is New Zealand where decriminalised sex work has been government policy since 2003.

4 In Conclusion:

The premise and wording of this inquire are negative and judgemental toward sex workers. It assumes that all sex work is exploitative, especially of women. This is contrary to the evidence of sex workers and human rights organisations and of projects and agencies who work with and understand from first hand experience the real lived experience of sex workers. This is not to say that exploitation does not exist, it surely does in sex work, as in any industry, especially when unregulated and criminalised and forced to work underground and is therefore an easy target for criminals. Despite this the overwhelming evidence suggests that the majority of sex workers are working consensually and they are asking for that choice to be respected and recognised.

This inquiry, as with every previous government inquiry into sex work fails because it judges rather than seeks evidence and most importantly it is judging with little or no real evidence, certainly ignoring the voices of sex workers.

Government has no idea how many sex workers exist in England and Wales and no idea on the demographic of the sex worker community. Guestimates range between 35 thousand to 80 thousand sex workers. There is a guess that around 15/20% are street workers and the rest work indoor but no one truly knows. No one knows what percentage are independent, work in brothels, work in collectives, with friends, through agencies or on the street. No one knows what percentage are women, men or trans. Making any legislation or suggestion for legislation with no real knowledge and without consulting the very people you are making legislating for is bad legislation and legislation that is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and to fail.

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I am happy to give evidence to the committee on behalf of the Harlots Collective and urge that consultation with sex workers is vital to create good legislation that has the interests of sex workers at its core. Any other legislation is guaranteed to fail because it denies human rights and human dignity in favour of subjective moralism and ideology that denies women and men ownership of their bodies and the right to consent to sex. Finally it is essential that independent academic, methodically accredited research, especially on the demographic of sex work, informs the basis of legislation rather than presumption and moralism.

References: References and essential reading.

New Zealand Decriminalisation. http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy/commercial-property-and-regulatory/prostitution/prostitution-law-review-committee/prostitution-law-review-committee

SOHO Police Raids (Trafficking deportations).

http://prostitutescollective.net/2013/12/12/paula-nicol-ecp-on-soho-raids/

Decriminalising Sex Work would cut HIV infection.

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_24-7-2014-16-48-0

Effects of Sweden’s law criminalising clients on Sex Workers.

http://lastradainternational.org/lsidocs/3049-Levy%20Sweden.pdf

MAI…Less than 6% of Sex Workers Trafficked.

https://metranet.londonmet.ac.uk/research-units/iset/projects/esrc-migrant-workers.cfm

The effect of criminalising clients of Sex Workers.

http://www.nswp.org/sites/nswp.org/files/Criminalisation%20of%20Clients-c.pdf

Diversity in the UK Sex Industy. Jane Pitcher.

https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/bitstream/2134/16739/3/Thesis-2014-Pitcher.pdf

Defining Sex Work as work for human rights. Cusick.

http://www.ihra.net/files/2010/05/13/CusickWarsaw2007.pdf

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Sex workers and violence against women. Agustin.

http://www.lauraagustin.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/LAgustin_Sexworkers_and_Violence_Against_Women.pdf

More than 9 out of 10 sex workers do not want their clients criminalised.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-prostitutes-warn-that-criminalising-clients-would-reduce-safety-a6877816.html

Amnesty International supports decriminalisation of sex work.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/global-movement-votes-to-adopt-policy-to-protect-human-rights-of-sex-workers/

Previous occupations of sex workers. Dr Teela Sanders.

http://www.sociology.leeds.ac.uk/news/2015/survey-by-dr-teela-sanders-reveals-previous-professions-of-sex-workers

Common Human Rights Violations experienced by Sex Workers.

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/common-human-rights-violations-experienced-by-sex-workers-english-20110831.pdf

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3 comments on “submission to the parliamentary inquiry into prostitution.

  1. Gaye Dalton
    17 February, 2016

    Fantastic stuff, all bases well covered…my own submission is here https://mymythbuster.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/uksubmission.docx

    • harlotsvicky
      17 February, 2016

      Thank you. Like yours as well. They will all of course be ignored.

  2. Sexy big
    10 May, 2016

    Thank you. Like yours as well

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