07 May 2014
The prostitution laws in the UK are really complicated.While it is technically legal to work as a prostitute, the circumstances need to be very specific to avoid it becoming a criminal offence. It is, for example, legal to work as a prostitute alone and indoors, but if there are two or more sex workers operating out of the same premise it is classified as a brothel, which is illegal, as is street work. It’s even more complex if you start thinking about online prostitution.
A large majority vote in favour of the Nordic system earlier this year in the European parliament. This refers to the prostitution laws adopted by Sweden, Norway and Iceland which criminalises the act of buying sex, and therefore it is the client rather than the sex workers who are breaking the law when money changes hands. This vote is not legally binding, but it does put some pressure on members of the parliament to review their laws and seriously consider the Nordic model.
Sex work was previously a way of men obtaining sex outside of marriage and satisfying their most base urges, however a rise in the acceptability of premarital sex hasn’t led to a decline in the prostitution industry. In fact, The Economist estimates that around 400,000 women in Germany are sex workers, providing sex for more than one million men per day.
The Nordic system hasn’t decreased the demand for commercial sex or online prostitution. These laws don’t necessarily protect the workers. Rather, organisations such as Amnesty international have proposed that full decriminalisation of sex work will help ensure workers human rights. Criminalisation forces the industry underground, making it less safe for those involved. It’s often stated how ‘girls who solicit their services need more protection’, however, it’s not just an industry for women, and men need protection too.
Another argument for legalising online prostitution is a financial one. With lots of people working in the sex trade there is also a high percentage of citizens who do not pay tax on their earnings. By making the industry legal, MPs argue that much more tax revenue would be collected and public funding issues would be lessened.
Regardless of whether prostitution is legalised or decriminalised, the focus should be on making work safer for those involved. Sex workers who have been raped are less likely to go to the police, because there is an underlying fear of arrest, or that by working in that industry it is to be expected and it is almost an occupational hazard.
The law also doesn’t distinguish between those who choose it, and those who are forced into it for any reason. If you then choose to stop working as a prostitute, there needs to be laws to prevent discrimination in the work place. A past in sex work or online prostitution shouldn’t affect your chances of a more conventional role should you want one.
We need to lose the stigma which surrounds sex work.
Rather than people who have never worked in the sex industry dictating the legislation around it, those who are involved should have a say. After all, these people and these people alone know the true extent of the difficulties outlawing prostitution can have. How would you change the laws?
If you want to talk about any of the issues you face in the sex industry, please contact us for anonymous and safe support.