Our Consent Counts when legislating on sexwork by Alan Green

I am writing to you to ask your views on the sex industry. This is an emotive and contentious issue, generally reported on and discussed in sensationalised and objectifying terms that use people who sell sex rather than listening to them.

I was appalled by the attempt last year to introduce the ‘Swedish’ or ‘Nordic’ model by means of an amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill. Had this succeeded, it would have passed into law without any consultation with the very people whose lives would be most affected. At the time I wrote to the members of the Bill’s committee, and had a long email correspondence with Sir John Randall (one of the co-proposers of the amendment). It would seem that the strength of feeling expressed by many, together with the overwhelming evidence presented my John McDonnell MP caused Sir John to at least partially reconsider (I refer you to Sir John’s statements during the third reading of the bill). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Fiona MacTaggart (another co-proposer) who did not have the courtesy to reply. The Labour Party’s tacit support for the Swedish model is one of the many reasons why I will not be voting Labour in the forthcoming election.

Those who loudest shout to be heard are often those with the most extreme views – that the sex industry should be eradicated, that prostitution is violence and that paying for sex should be criminalised. These campaigners are noisy, organised, and well-funded, particularly compared to frontline services to people in the sex industry or groups lead by sex workers. But they are not representative of majority views.

Fundamentally, I feel that it cannot be just to infantilise those involved in sex work, denying them agency, and stating that they are incapable of giving consent. The law has no place in determining what occurs between consenting adults.

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, equal rights and respect for the right to consent to sex – because, for everyone, consent counts.

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

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