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The Sexual Exploitation Bill will put vulnerable women in a scary place

A controversial new proposal could make paying for sex a criminal offence and protect women from violence, but workers, activists and charities argue it will have the opposite effect, writes Rachel Hagan

Tuesday 02 March 2021 15:34 GMT
Sex workers protesting outside parliament 2018
Sex workers protesting outside parliament 2018 (EPA)

Paying for sex could become a criminal offence in England and Wales if parliament approves a new bill which has been put forward by Dame Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North. Johnson has put the bill forward in a bid to protect women from potential sexual exploitation and trafficking, but the proposal could have the opposite effect.

The bill is opposed by sex workers and groups including the Royal College of Nursing, Amnesty International and many harm reduction and women’s rights charities. It’s argued that those calling for criminalisation are driven by ideology and not evidence, and sadly sex workers are often removed from the conversation in the hallowed halls of parliament.

Currently in the UK a lot of the work is already criminalised. You can sell sex, but you can’t solicit it in a public place, and you essentially have to work alone because of laws against running brothels – two prostitutes working together constitute a brothel in the eyes of the law.

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