Our Consent Counts when legislating on sexwork by Kapelwa Musonda

I am writing to you to ask your views on the sex industry. I am a member of the Unite union, and sex workers in the sister GMB union have asked us to contact our prospective local MPs in support as part of the Our Consent Counts campaign.

The issue is generally reported on and discussed in sensationalised and objectifying terms that use people who sell sex rather than listening to them.

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. Polls have shown that the sex industry is a tolerated part of society and that neither people who sell sex, nor their clients, should be criminals. To keep this letter short I am not including the data but it is available at www.ourconsentcounts.uk

Due to criminalisation, it is risky for people in the sex industry, who have included people close to me, to be open about their lives and so directly challenge prejudice and ignorance, as people who sell sex are targeted for violence and discrimination because they sell sex and criminalisation means that a casual remark about sharing premises renders them, and their colleagues, vulnerable to prosecution.

There is no situation in which a woman is made safer by treating her consent to sex as something that can be ignored, dismissed or devalued even if supposedly for her own good.

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 on this, so please let me know your views.

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