Brighton Pavilion

Caroline Lucas is the incumbent MP.  She belongs to a party which supports total decriminilisation of sex work.  Unfortunately Caroline supports the Swedish model. The Green party does not mandate its MPs to vote the party line, so in any vote on sex work, Caroline will be supporting the criminilisation of clients.  She was also used by the APPG on prostitution to launch the report on criminalising clients.  Providing a green friendly face to this report. This group are funded by CARE, a radical Christian group who campaigns against gay marriage and abortion.  In writing to her, emphasise to her that the Swedish model does not work.  It has not been proven to reduce prostitution, and causes actual harm and additional stigma for those working as sex workers.  There is a report by Cambridge University research, Dr Jay Levy, on the Swedish model.  An overview of his research is available here. If you are a sex worker, tell her how this law would adversely affect you.  Unless Caroline changes her mind then I would advise against voting for her.

Typical response from Caroline Lucas

Thank you for getting in touch about the criminalisation of sex work. I do apologise for the delay in responding to you. I receive a vast amount of emails and it isn’t always possible to reply as quickly as I would like.

As a proud feminist, I feel very strongly about equality between men and women and like you, I am extremely concerned about the safety and discrimination of sex workers.

You may be interested to know that as an MP, I took part in an inquiry by the all Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade to assess the operation of the UK’s legal settlement on prostitution. We also set out to explore whether new legislation was needed. The enquiry attracted responses from individuals, local councils, health care services, police and law enforcement, outreach projects and those involved in prostitution.   Paramount in my mind when considering the evidence was that any legal response to prostitution must reflect the concerns of sex workers, and must provide the best possible help in preventing women from being exploited, marginalised, abused and stereotyped. We concluded that legislation was needed to criminalise the purchase of sex, alongside decriminalising prostitution, and that the evidence this would make women safer was much stronger and more compelling than the evidence that it would make women less safe.

I believe that a Sex Buyers Law would help tackle the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking. I, therefore, support the End Demand campaign which is backed by, amongst others, Womens Aid, the TUC Women’s Committee, the Fawcett Society, End Violence Against Women Coalition and Eaves.

I support a Sex Buyers Law because it would formally recognise that prostitution is a barrier to gender equality. It would help shift public attitudes by clearly signalling that the purchase of sex is at odds with the fundamental right to freedom, to equality and against exploitation. It would help reduce demand, acting as an immediate deterrent and a more long term one as attitudes change. It would reduce the prevalence of human trafficking to the UK, as has happened in those countries where similar legislation as already been introduced. It would help protect women by directly targeting resources at support and exiting services for those exploited through prostitution – housing, education & training, legal advice, welfare benefits and health care. And ultimately a Sex Buyers Law would help protect men too, because nobody gains from a culture in which the sexual commodification of women and girls is the norm.

It’s all too common for the debate about the law and prostitution to be polarised between those who argue that criminalising the purchase of sex is the answer; and those who counter that it can increase the stigmatisation of sex workers and silence their voices.  The Nordic model, on which the proposal for a Sex Buyers law is based, is not perfect – for example, the inquiry heard how in Sweden there was insufficient input from sex workers.  However, we have an opportunity to learn from other’s experiences, to do things better and to put the rights of women first and foremost at every stage. I think this is what a Sex Buyer Law can help achieve, so it’s very welcome that the End Demand Campaign has attracted such broad support and has made such a strong commitment to the rights of sex workers being centre stage, both in the detail of any law and in the process of how it gets developed.

I have outlined some of the evidence from Sweden, which adopted the Sex Buyer Law in 1999, for your information:

·         According to the National Criminal Police, Sweden has become a more hostile destination for traffickers.

·         Street prostitution in Sweden halved between 1999 and 2008 and there is no evidence women were simply displaced to indoor prostitution or prostitution advertised online. Despite Sweden having 3.8 million more inhabitants than neighbouring Denmark, the number of people involved in prostitution in Sweden – its ‘prostitution population’ – is approximately a tenth of Denmark’s – where buying sex is legal.  The number of men paying for sex in Sweden has declined. Between 1996 and 2008 the proportion of men who reported paying for sex declined from 12.7% to 7.6%.

·         Public attitudes have changed. In 1996, 45% of women and 20% of men in Sweden supported criminalising the purchase of sex. By 2008, support for this legal principle had risen to 79% among women and 60% among men.

And from Norway, which adopted the Sex Buyer Law in 2009:

·         Norway has become a more hostile destination for traffickers. An evaluation of the law’s impact reported: “A reduced market and increased law enforcement posit larger risks for human traffickers…The law has thus affected important pull factors and reduced the extent of human trafficking in Norway in comparison to a situation without a law.”

·         The prostitution market has shrunk. Systematic field observations of the street prostitution market in Oslo reveal it has declined by 40%-65% since the law was adopted

Prostitution arises because we do not have gender equality. It is also a tangible barrier to such equality because it reinforces and perpetuates the unequal status of ALL women. It is undoubtedly a form of modern slavery – whether just for the duration of the transaction or as an immutable aspect of everyday life.  I believe that prostitution is about being exploited, coerced, raped, sexually abused and objectified. Prostitution is violence against women and happens because, as a society, we continue to tolerate violence against women.  To tolerate women’s inequality.

I appreciate this does not reflect your position, and also differs from Green Party policy. However, it is always extremely useful for me to hear from people who have expertise in the area so that I can consider all aspects of the debate. However, I hope you are assured that I have given the matter my full attention before reaching this position and that, like you, I am completely committed to ending gender inequality and gendered violence.  If you require any further information, or have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to write again.

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