Decrim Now are calling on the UK government to support the full decriminalisation of sex work.
The problem is the law
Criminalisation makes sex work dangerous. Current laws in the UK means that sex workers are unable to legally work together for safety, and are discouraged from reporting instances of violence committed against them for fear of being arrested. When sex workers receive criminal records for offences relating to their work, it makes it harder for them to find other employment. Enabling sex workers to claim the same legal rights and protections as workers in other industries reduces opportunities for those who currently see them as fair game for criminal exploitation.
We believe sex workers
We live in a society that is obsessed with controlling what women should and shouldn’t do with their bodies, particularly when it comes to work and sex. From limiting access to abortion in Northern Ireland, to the UK Supreme Court stopping a woman from being able to divorce her husband, to not believing us when we report rape: the message is clear, women can not be trusted to narrate their lives or decide their own experiences.
We want labour rights
Sex workers are increasingly organising alongside other workers within the trade union movement. The push to criminalise those who purchase sex and to close online sex work platforms is not a ‘progressive change’ from existing, harmful forms of criminalisation. It is a continuation of them. The reality of the sex industry is that people working in it have a range of experiences – good, bad and ugly. What those who support further criminalisation miss is that intensified policing worsens instances of harm and violence. Instead of attempting to eradicate the sex industry through further empowering the police and immigration enforcement, we need other workers to support sex workers in their demands for safety and dignity at work.
Sex work is work
When we say that sex work is work, we mean that it is a method of earning a living through your own labour. It is highly gendered, stigmatised and often precarious work, but it is work that pays the rent, bills, and puts food on the table of thousands of families across the UK. If anti-prostitution campaigners want to support those who wish to leave the sex industry, they should find sex workers – particularly the most precarious workers, such as undocumented, disabled, and those who are single mothers – alternative modes of income, not attempt to take away the economic strategy that people are using to survive.