What I said about Sex Work at conference

Finally, I was called to speak on a Federal Motion! I’m so pleased that it was on a topic that’s so important to me. Here’s what I had written to say, though I did have to skip the last couple of paragraphs as I spoke for a little too long (oops!)

EDIT: You can now watch the speech as well:

Last year, I attended an event run by the Sex Workers’ Open University where we heard from sex workers from all over the world operating under different legal systems as well as from leading researchers on the topic, specifically covering what’s referred to as the Nordic Model.

The event sparked my interest and I’ve been working since then with sex workers and other Sex Worker Led organisations to come up with the best system possible for Scotland, and to oppose with them the Private Members’ Bill tabled by a Member of the Scottish Parliament recently that looked to impose something similar to the Nordic Model up here. Luckily, we were successful in that endeavour but there’s still a worrying appetite to see the clients of sex workers criminalised here in Scotland and in the UK.

In the time that I’ve been working on this, I’ve heard some very interesting and often shocking things about the harmful effects of criminalising the clients of sex workers and that’s why I’d like to urge you not to remove any lines from this very good motion, particularly not any that would remove the key protections it seeks to offer; namely standing against a model that seeks to criminalise clients.

Studies show very clearly that the demand for sex work does not alter when the laws around it do. That is to say that countries who have decriminalised sex work didn’t see an increase in the amount of people involved in buying or selling sex, and that countries who have criminalised the industry or the clients have not seen a drop in sex work activity.

What we HAVE seen, however, across the board, is that sex work that’s done out in the open (perhaps not literally) is safer for all involved.

And let me be clear, regulated sex work is not helpful. It is not a safe middle ground between criminalisation and decriminalisation, it can be as harmful as criminalisation in many cases and we’ve seen proof of that in parts of Australia where such systems exist. The evidence is that decriminalisation IS THE BEST OPTION and as Liberals, feminists and people who support evidence-based policy, it is the only option for our policy. Changing this motion to blue the lines on that helps nobody.

In Sweden, sex workers with criminalised clients are denied condoms in case those providing them with them are seen to be aiding a crime. They are unable to vet or even asses clients easily as meetings need to happen quickly, and in unsafe places. They don’t feel able to contact the police about sexual violence and the clients are unable to raise a red flag to the authorities if they suspect that sex workers are being mistreated or trafficked.

Sex work is work, and to undermine the choices of those involved in the industry by claiming that we need to rescue them in any way is demeaning, unhelpful, and simply untrue.

The biggest threat to sex workers a lot of the time comes from the harmful laws that are so often sought to be applied to their industry; and it is from those laws that they need to be protected, not from their own life choices or careers.

That is exactly what this motion is seeking to protect them from, and removing crucial protections from it would be doing a grave disservice to those we are seeking to help out.

So please, support this motion and do not remove the lines on which we may be taking a separate vote.

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