Sex industry should be decriminalized, says Corbyn

© Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (L). © Reuters
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says he is in favor of decriminalizing prostitution, but officials insist his views are personal and don’t represent party policy.

Speaking at an event with students at Goldsmith’s University, Corbyn confirmed his position on the issue, which is thought to be long held but never openly advocated during his term as leader.

When asked to give his thoughts on the criminality of sex work, Corbyn said: “I am in favor of decriminalizing the sex industry. I don’t want people to be criminalized. I want to be [in] a society where we don’t automatically criminalize people. Let’s do things a bit differently and in a bit more civilized way.”

But a spokesperson for the leader said the remarks related to Corbyn’s opinions only, and did not represent the party. 

His comments come after the introduction of a legal red-light district in Leeds, northern England, which aims to reduce the number of sex-related crimes and make working conditions safer for prostitutes.

If it is successful, similar schemes could be rolled out across the UK.

However, the policy contrasts with legislation currently being discussed by the EU, which passed a non-binding agreement in 2014 in favor of criminalizing prostitution. The move puts pressure on members of the bloc to move their policy in line with the EU.

The legislation is referred to as the Nordic Model, after its adoption in Sweden, and is opposed by campaign groups who believe it will make sex work more dangerous.

In 2015, Amnesty International called for “full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.”

In the UK it is not illegal to sell sex, but it is illegal to solicit, kerb crawl and run a brothel.

Last month a report was released advocating that British individuals buying sex should not only be prosecuted in the UK, but for offences committed abroad too.

The report, published by the campaign group End Demand for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution, says paying for sex in the UK should be illegal and recommends MPs “strongly consider” extending the crime to overseas offences.

APPG for Prostitution chairman Gavin Shuker expressed his support for the idea, which would make it illegal for British citizens to pay for sex wherever they are in the world.

“Speaking personally, I think the idea has merit for one simple reason: many people’s first experience of buying sex takes place abroad,” he said.