Tag Archives: prostitution

Ending violence against women

The Independent newspaper, today published results of a survey by the campaign group for sex workers which seeks to end violence against sex workers. The survey by National Ugly Mug (NUM) revealed approximately 96% of those surveyed said people should not be criminalised for buying sex from a consulting adult. A further 82% declared hey would feel less safe if such legislation was introduced.

Their concern is that criminalising the purchaser of sex will make clients more apprehensive therefore making the sex worker more vulnerable.

However, the Independent’s own editorial pointed out that prostitution is a dangerous business. As regular readers to my blog will be only to aware I have campaigned for some time about the need to reform legislation with regard to the treatment of sex workers.

Almost nobody begins a career as a sex worker through choice. As such these women remain vulnerable and legislators should seek the best way to protect them. I favour the Nordic model of prostitution which criminalises the purchaser rather than the seller of sex.

Increasingly we are realising that many sex workers in this country have been forced into carrying out the role and are in fact victims of trafficking so we have a duty to protect these women too.

Recently I wrote about a pilot project in an area of Leeds which had designated a zone for sex workers to work without fear of prosecution. The results of this laissez faire attitude were alarming, despite the murder of a sex worker within the zone it was deemed a success. Incredibly other police forces have signalled that they are considering replicating the model.

Sex workers need to be supported, criminalising them does not work and the burden of responsibly should be placed on those men who seek to use sex workers.
You can read the Independent’s editorial here.


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Going Swedish – my article for Progress

On Saturday I wrote an article for Progress Online for International Women’s Day. You can read the article below, or go to the original post by clicking here.

International Women’s Day this year came on the heels of a big few months in the battle to end the ‘oldest profession’. France, Ireland and Northern Ireland have made moves towards changing their prostitution laws in the last year. All three are looking to shift towards the Swedish model, whereby it is the buyer (invariably the man) who is criminalised, with the sale of sex made legal.

Moreover, Germany has appeared for the first time to be willing to re-evaluate legalisation, and the British parliament, which has traditionally had a muddled position, has shown signs of going Swedish. An all-party group on the subject, chaired by Gavin Shuker MP, concluded that current laws ‘prioritise the gratification of punters at the expense of often-vulnerable women and girls’. The current law fails to address the problem of demand, and as a result it sustains the status quo.

The process has been helped along by my own report, recommending the Swedish model, which was passed by the European parliament in February. With countries as far away as Canada weighing up the merits of the Swedish model, it appears a genuine international shift is taking place. At long last governments are taking sustainable and ambitious steps.

For me this process is essential in the effort to bring about a world where women have a genuinely fair crack. With the sex trade overwhelmingly populated by women, the existence of prostitution is an affront to the battle for gender parity. It is a totemic issue; a persistent and uneasy monument of the economic and physical dominance of women by men. As a delegation of nearly 80 academics wrote in an open letter to members of the European parliaments last month:

The prostitution system is a reminder of continuing inequalities between women and men: the gender pay gap; the sexualisation of female bodies in popular culture; the histories of violence and abuse in both childhood and adulthood that underpin many women’s entry into the sex industry.

The alternative to the Swedish model is blanket decriminalisation. This has a degree of support – including from some sex workers’ groups – as a means of regulating the sex industry better. Advocates say it would prevent prostitution being ‘driven underground’ and therefore make it safer.

This claim is undermined somewhat by the case of Germany, perhaps the most controversial example of decriminalisation. Since legalisation there in 2001 there has been an explosion in prostitution levels. So-called ‘super brothels’ now operate on the country’s borders and there are reportedly around 400,000 sex workers (compared to less than 50,000 in neighbouring France). Just 44 of these have registered for benefits, suggesting the supposed ‘regulation’ of the industry is something of a myth. The effect has been simply to ingrain prostitution and normalise the inequalities which sustain it.

I hope that by International Women’s Day 2015 the number of countries to have ‘gone Swedish’ will have increased, and we will be approaching the point of critical mass where the Swedish model can become accepted as the norm. To protect women everywhere we must go beyond sticking plaster solutions and look to root causes.


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Discussing the Swedish Model on BBC London this morning

This morning I spoke to Penny Smith and Paul Ross on BBC Radio London’s  breakfast show. It was good to be on the programme, and I was especially pleased to be talking to them about the conclusions of the UK Parliament’s all-party group on prostitution, which this week suggested the UK should shift towards the Swedish approach.

You can listen in full by clicking below:

[audio https://maryhoneyballmep.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/mh04-03-14.mp3]

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Addressing the European Parliament this week

At lunchtime today the European Parliament votes on my prostitution report. The report recommends the Swedish Model – whereby it is the buyer of sex who is prosecuted – and was supported this week by nearly eighty academics and world experts on the issue.

On Monday I addressed the full parliament In Strasbourg calling on them to back it. The footage can be seen below:


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My European Parliament Speech on Prostitution and Gender Equality

My report on prostitution and sexual exploitation takes its starting point in the Directives on victims of violence (2012) and in trafficking (2011) which clearly couples trafficking and prostitution.

My report is trying to change the perspective on prostitution from the supply to the demand side and therefore endorses the “Nordic” model to criminalise the client rather than the prostitute, who should have all adequate help and not be condemned and stigmatised when often suffering from trauma, drug and alcohol addiction and a higher mortality rate than women in general. Programmes to help women to escape prostitution should be developed. Prostitution should more be seen as a form of violence and as such be an obstacle to equality between women and men. The economic crisis in some countries has also forced women into entering prostitution which shows that the economic inequality is important.

Laws on prostitution vary across the European Union. In the UK prostitution is not illegal but soliciting, running a brothel, pimping and associated activities are. In Holland a bill in 2000 lifted the ban on brothels with the aim of reducing prostitution and controlling and regulating it by introducing a municipal licensing system. The Dutch government carried out two evaluations on the impacts in 2002 and in2007. In the 2007 evaluation it was clear that 95% of the prostitutes worked without employment contracts, were not entitled to social service benefits, had no exit programmes, and did not pay tax.  Furthermore work permits for prostitutes were not accepted and thereby the prostitutes had to be referred to the underground market. According to a 2006 study the majority of the female prostitutes are migrants, mainly from Eastern Europe and the sex business represents 5% of the GDP namely around 600 million Euros yearly. According to the national Rapporteur on Human Trafficking there has always been a clear relationship between human trafficking in the Netherlands and 60% -70% of the women are forced by criminal groups to be prostitutes.

In Germany a similar approach to that in Holland is in place and a study carried out by the Federal Ministry found that 92% of the women working as prostitutes had suffered sexual harassment and Germany is considered one of major destination for victims of human trafficking and the Anti -Trafficking Directive 2011/36/EU has passed by Bundestag but not Bundesrat.  In Der Spiegel a debate has been conducted this last year where it has become clear how young poor women from Romania and Bulgaria are treated as sex slaves for flat rate services to German men.

On the other hand, buying sexual services is a criminal offence in Sweden – the Nordic Model. France has just passed a law in the National Assembly in line with the Nordic Model.

My report views this as a way forward for the European Union.


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Discussing buying sex on Newsnight

Last week I appeared on BBC’s Newsnight to discuss my forthcoming prostitution report. Myself and Dorcas Erskine favoured the Swedish approach, whereas Belinda Brooks-Gordon and Laura Lee took a more libertarian, pro-Dutch stance. It was great to be on the programme and to discuss the topic, and I thought a very interesting discussion was had.

The paper will be debated today before going to the full European Parliament on Wednesday.

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Duncan Barkes LBC Programme on Prostitution

Last night I appeared on Duncan Barkes’ LBC radio programme to discuss prostitution.

You can listen by clicking below.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

My report, which recommends the Swedish Model – by which buying sex is criminalised but selling it remains legal – goes to the full European Parliament at the next plenary session in Strasbourg, later this month.


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