Jeremy Corbyn says sex work should be decriminalised

Some campaigners say the move would help protect sex workers

Jon Stone
Friday 04 March 2016 17:15 GMT
"On to the other essential question: will Jeremy Corbyn kneel and kiss the Queen’s hand when he is initiated into the Privy Council?"
"On to the other essential question: will Jeremy Corbyn kneel and kiss the Queen’s hand when he is initiated into the Privy Council?" (AFP)

The sex industry and prostitution should be decriminalised, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.

“I am favour of decriminalising the sex industry. I don’t want people to be criminalised,” he told an event at Goldsmiths University, reported by the Guardian newspaper.

“I want to be [in] a society where we don’t automatically criminalise people. Let’s do things a bit differently and in a bit more civilised way.”

Labour said the approach was Mr Corbyn’s personal view and not official Labour policy.

Mr Corbyn joins Amnesty International and other campaigners, who say decriminalisation is the best way to protect sex workers.

While it is not currently illegal to pay for sex in the UK it is illegal to operate a brothel, to solicit for paid sex in a public place, and to act as a “pimp”.

Some campaigners say criminalisation drives sex work underground and puts the people who engage in it in more danger.

The UK’s approach to restricting brothels has been criticised in particular because campaigners say it means sex workers cannot work on the same premises and pool their safety.

The issue is hotly contested and other groups have called for tougher restrictions, however.

One alternative approach – backed by the European Parliament in 2014 – criminalises buyers but leaves sex workers unregulated.

Proponents of the so-called “Nordic Model” say sex work is undesirable and that criminalising buyers cuts off demand – while critics say it means clients seen by sex workers tend to be more dangerous.

“We have chosen to advocate for the decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual adult sex - sex work that does not involve coercion, exploitation or abuse,” wrote Catherine Murphy, policy advisor at Amnesty International last year.

“This is based on evidence and the real-life experience of sex workers themselves that criminalisation makes them less safe.”

The English Collective of Prostitutes has been campaigning for the end of prostitution laws since 1975.

The charity nia, which works with women who want to leave the sex trade, however criticised Mr Corbyn’s view.

“We are disappointed to hear Jeremy Corbyn confirm his support for the commercialised sexual exploitation of women – aka prostitution, that he suggests this exploitation can be framed as civilised demonstrates his lack of understanding or concern about the realities of life for most women who sell sex,” the group said in a statement.

“A society that sanctions the trade of women’s bodies – and it is overwhelmingly women exploited through prostitution and even more overwhelmingly men who are the buyers – is one that legitimises and reinforces inequality between women and men.

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