Draft Academic template letter

Guidelines for writing to your PPCs (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates)

  • be polite
  • keep it short
  • say if you work for a health or support service, if you’re an academic or researcher, if someone you care for works in the sex industry or if you are simply someone who recognises that people in the sex industry deserve fair treatment, equal protection of the law and respect for our consent to sex – and that discrimination against women on the grounds they sell sex promotes discrimination against all women whose sexual activity meets with disapproval
  • say what you want. We suggest you ask them to support the New Zealand model of full decriminalisation, equal rights and respect for the right to consent to sex
  • ask them to reply and say that this will affect your vote

Draft academic template letter

My background is in academia and I’m writing to tell you that people who sell sex deserve fair and equal treatment. The debate around the sex industry is emotive, sensationalist and contentious and many campaigners for increased criminalisation, both individuals and organisations, choose to ignore or distort the evidence about the diverse lived reality of people who sell sex and the effect on them of differing legal frameworks.

In Sweden, where paying for sex is criminalised and heavily promoted by the state, sex workers report judgemental treatment by both “support services” and the police (including rape by police officers). There have been cases of people losing their homes when police told their landlords that accepting rent payments could lead to prosecution as a pimp. Although the aim of the law was to decrease prostitution and trafficking, there is no reliable evidence that the level of prostitution in Sweden has decreased. In fact, according to Swedish police, the number of Thai massage parlours in Stockholm increased from 90 to 250 from 2009 to 2012, with 450 Thai massage parlours across Sweden as a whole. In addition, it is doubtful the law has had a deterrent effect – for example, in the first half of 2009 a total of 148 people were reported for paying prostitutes for sex; the following year the number for the same period was 770 and the Global Aids Response Progress report (2012) says “reports from Swedish social workers … indicate that the number of Swedish men who pay … for sex is increasing.”

It’s important to know that, contrary to stereotype, clients are not the main perpetrators of violence against people who sell sex (though violence may be perpetrated by those who present as clients in order to lure their intended victims into a more vulnerable situation) and many perpetrators express hatred and disgust towards people who sell sex. Perhaps the only effect of criminalizing clients well-documented in the Swedish government’s official evaluation was a more negative view of prostitution – not only is stigmatised sexual behaviour a widely acknowledge driver of HIV and other STIs, it is likely these views correlate with increased violence against those in the sex industry.

This shows criminalising paying for sex is not just ineffective and a waste of public funds but actively harmful. Furthermore, it sends the message that it’s OK to ignore a woman’s consent to sex if she has sex for money, a message with dangerous implications for all women.

Full decriminalisation – the New Zealand model – has been shown to increase the safety of people who sell sex – for example, someone who managed a brothel has successfully been prosecuted for sexual harassment of his staff as has a client who put a sex worker’s health at risk by removing a condom without her knowledge or consent. Additionally, there is no evidence that decriminalisation has lead to an increase in the number of people selling sex.

People in the sex industry deserve fair and equal treatment, including respect for their consent to sex, their right to make decisions about their own lives and the full protection of the law.

I hope that, whatever your personal feelings about sex and prostitution, you treat people in the sex industry fairly and equally. Support the New Zealand model of full decriminalisation and respect for the right to consent to sex – because, for everyone, consent counts.

My vote at the General Election depends on this, so please let me know your views.