Legalize sex work now, say British MPs

© Eric Gaillard
Sex work should be decriminalized and the legal framework surrounding the industry should be reformed, according to a Home Affairs Committee (HAC) report into the safety and well-being of workers and clients.

Prostitutes and politicians welcomed the recommendations published Friday, but many feel more needs to be done.

Sex workers and their unions are now fighting for the government to implement the total decriminalization of the sex trade.

Women’s groups, in turn, have argued for the reprieve not to be extended to pimps and buyers.

The English Collective of Prostitutes thanked the government for its efforts and called for an end to brothel raids, police dispersal powers and the immediate recognition of sex work as legitimate employment.

Spokeswoman Laura Watson said: “There should be an immediate moratorium on arrests, raids and prosecutions.

“Just today we heard from a woman whose premises was raided and closed. All her accounts have been frozen and she was left with £50 to feed her children pending charges for brothel-keeping being brought against her.

“Civil orders against street-based sex workers such as Section 35 dispersal orders must also be abolished and the Home Office should withdraw from cases we are fighting where Romanian sex workers are facing deportation on grounds that sex work is not a ‘legitimate form of work.’”

The group believes that prostitution criminalization policies similar to the ones imposed in Norway have only placed workers at higher risk.

An Amnesty International study showed that women in the Scandinavian country have been exposed to forced evictions, prosecutions and increased stigma.

According to the HAC, more than 450 sex workers were prosecuted for soliciting in the 2014-2015 period alone.

It also found that in the last 25 years at least 152 sex workers were murdered and nearly half feared for their lives.

Award-winning sex worker and campaigner Charlotte Rose told RT the fight for decriminalization had been “a long hard battle against others that don't see sex workers as human.”

With the help of sex workers’ groups and high profile campaigners such as Secret Diary of a Call Girl author Brooke Magnanti, “it finally looks like the voices of sex workers are now being heard. This is amazing news for the sex workers’ community in which I am proud to be a part of.”

But women’s rights groups are not happy with the report’s findings, highlighting the “exploitation inherent in the sex trade, and its dependence on wider structural inequalities between men and women.”

Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker said: “To end sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in the sex trade, demand needs to be reduced. The protection of people who sell sex should not be extended to pimps and sex buyers.

“This is not a ‘moral’ argument, it is one built on the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who sell sex are controlled by pimps, Evidence shows that the Nordic model reduces sex trafficking. It is not about morality, it is about equality.”

The Home Office confirmed it was considering the recommendations.