30 April 2015
As a lot of sex work falls outside the law, many people believe that sex workers don’t have any rights. In reality, this is simply not true. Like all people in the UK, sex workers have a range of rights that are designed to keep them safe and ensure they get access to the help and support they need.
Whether you’re dealing with the police, hospitals, lawyers or customers, knowing your rights and being able to stand up for yourself will help you to stay safe, look after yourself and get the support you’re entitled to.
Like all citizens in the UK, sex workers have basic human rights. These include the right to full protection under all existing laws, regardless of the context and without discrimination, including all laws relating to harassment, violence, threats, intimidation, health and safety and theft.
Sex workers also have the right to access the full range of employment, contract and property laws. The right to participate in and leave the sex industry without stigma and the right to full and voluntary access to non-discriminatory health checks and medical advice.
Know your rights
As a lot of sex workers come into contact with the police on a regular basis, knowing your legal rights can be incredibly important.
In Scotland, sex worker charity SCOTPEP has created a ‘know your rights’ card to help sex workers deal with the police. Developed in response to concerns about police attitudes and the constant failure of police to notify sex workers of their rights, the card has been designed to empower sex workers and give them the information they need to stay safe.
The hope of SCOTPEP and UK charity National Ugly Mugs who support the scheme, is to stop punitive police action and limit the criminalisation of sex workers as much as possible.
Though Northern Ireland has recently passed a law making it illegal to pay for sex at all, it is not illegal in the rest of the UK.
Like all women in the UK, sex workers have the right to refuse their consent for sex and customers must seek consent before engaging in any sex acts.
By knowing their rights, UK sex workers can protect themselves from both the law and their customers. To find out more about sex workers’ rights or about the help and support that’s available in your area, get in touch with Doorway Women’s Service today by calling 0808 800 1030 or sending us an email.