Our Consent Counts when legislating on sexwork by Danny-ella

I am writing to you to ask your views on the sex industry. Due to criminalisation, stigma and prejudice, it is a risk to be open about how I earn a living. Because of this I’m using this site to contact you.

A vocal minority feel entitled to promote policies that deny my consent and endanger my life and livelihood. I hope that, whatever your personal feelings about sex and prostitution, you treat people in the sex industry fairly and equally. Please support the New Zealand model of full decriminalisation, equal rights and respect for our consent to sex.

My current MP emailed me in response to an email I sent him in regards to the attempted amendment to the Anti Slavery bill. I found the response to be rather insulting. It read like that of someone who objects to prostitution on principle and was using coercion as an excuse to try to limit it, and the basic premise also seemed to be that the women involved are either forced or damaged. It also shows minimal understanding of the issues facing women in prostitution and the potential solutions (the Swedish Model) were ill-advised based both on my own experiences and on the current research.

He ended his email by saying that “For those thousands of women who are not in prostitution by choice, their voice needs to be heard and lessons learnt from the trauma of their lives.” He was right, however, there are also thousands of women who are prostitutes by choice. I am one of them. What about my voice?

In his reply he did discuss those that have made an active choice, but he added, “The trouble is that in too many cases…” implies that I am in some way deficient in my ability to make certain choices. And he went on to say that “Some argue that sex work can be a form of empowerment for women…” is patronising. I don’t argue that, I, a sex worker say that.

The government can either chose to accept prostitution as a reality and make it safer or they can legislate against it and make life more dangerous for the thousands on women (and men) who chose to work in the sex trade.

He used Sweden as an example of an approach which criminalises the purchase of sex as a solution to the problems often cited. The existing research shows that the Swedish law has not solved any of these problems and had in fact made things worse for women. So why would MPs continue to cite this as a solution?

He also said that Labour is pushing for a new offence of exploitation to make it easier to prosecute criminal gangs and brothel owners. Why do brothel owners need prosecuting? Brothels have the potential to make sex work safer. I would prefer to work with other people because I would be safer, but I don’t have that option, not if I want to work within the law. So I am either forced to work in isolation with all the risks that that entails or I break the law.

At the moment I am more afraid of prejudice, and harassment by the authorities than I am of violence by a client. This would change if the Swedish Model proposals made it into law. I would then be both afraid of the authorities and of violence from my clients.

Please let me know your views as my vote at the general election depends on them.

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