Stonewall is one of 152 groups and individuals to have added their names to an open letter in support of the decriminalisation of prostitution. The letter was penned by ‘Full Decrim Now’, an organisation which claims decriminalisation of so-called ‘sex work’ will increase “sex workers’ power in interactions with clients, managers, police and landlords”. Other notable signatories include Amnesty International UK, GMB, LGBT+ Labour and Sisters Uncut.
The letter was written in response to a proposed amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Tabled by Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, the amendment would seek effectively to introduce the ‘Nordic Model’. The Nordic Model is an approach whereby the purchase of sex is made a criminal offence, whereas those who sell sex are decriminalised and supported to exit the industry. The Nordic Model has now been adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, Ireland and Israel. It has the support of many feminist organisations and survivors of the sex trade.
“Women are subjected to sexual exploitation by men, who face no criminal sanction. We must bust the business model of this modern slavery, cracking down on online pimping, deterring sex-buyers and supporting victims.”
Following the national outrage over the murder of Sarah Everard, on 16th March Dame Diana Johnson told the House of Commons:
“If Ministers are serious about protecting women, they must recognise that exchanging money, food and accommodation for sex is a form of violence… Pimping websites operate openly and legally. Women are subjected to sexual exploitation by men, who face no criminal sanction. We must bust the business model of this modern slavery, cracking down on online pimping, deterring sex-buyers and supporting victims.”
Research suggests around 70 per cent of those in prostitution were abused as children, 75 per cent have experienced homelessness and 89 per cent wish to leave. Around nine out of ten prostituted people have a pimp. Pimps are commonly referred to as ‘managers’ by advocates of full decriminalisation.
In Germany where prostitution is fully legal, rates of trafficking have increased. As reported in Feminist Current when a ‘flat-rate’ brothel chain opened:
“1,700 men lined up to get in. The long line-ups outside women’s rooms lasted until closing time when many of the women collapsed from exhaustion, pain, injuries, and infections, including painful rashes and fungal infections that spread from their genitals down their legs. It was shut down a year later for human trafficking.”
Many of the world’s leading NGOs have opted to support the full decriminalisation of prostitution over recent years. In 2015 Alejandra Gil, the former vice-president of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects [NSWP] was jailed for 15 years for sex trafficking. Gil advised UNAids, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Amnesty International, all of whom have adopted policies in support of the full decriminalisation of the sex industry. International funding bodies, such as the Open Society Foundation, award grants to those seeking to decriminalise the industry.
Stonewall’s ‘core aim’ is to “advance equality and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGВТ) people in the UK and worldwide.” It remains unclear where the full decriminalisation of prostitution, including of brothel-keeping, pimping and buying sexual consent, fits within Stonewall’s stated charitable purpose.