“Selling sex should be decriminalised but buying it should be illegal, say MPs”

British prostitution laws should be overhauled so that women selling sex are no longer criminalised but buying sex is against the law, a cross-party group of MPs said on Monday.

In the first report of its kind for 20 years the all-party parliamentary group on prostitution said current laws around prostitution were complicated, confusing and ineffectual. The report called for Britain to follow in the path of countries such as Norway and Sweden and make it a criminal act to buy sex.


MPs and peers called for the introduction of a new “general offence” banning the purchase of sex while calling for soliciting offences used to prosecute prostitutes to be removed from the statute book.

The group warns that legal loopholes enable men to escape prosecution for abusing girls as young as 13 and fail to protect trafficked women while the legal framework has helped turn Britain into a destination for criminal gangs involved in the sex trade.

Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, said: “We believe that those who want to leave prostitution should be given every opportunity to find routes out. We will ensure that legislation surrounding prostitution remains effective and continue to work with law enforcement agencies to achieve this.

Full article here.

There is a definite pro-sex industry bias in the Guardian at the moment. Not just the unbalance in opinions expressed on CiF, but both this article, and the recent report on MEP’s vote for an abolitionist approach, have been illustrated with images of ECP protestors (the second link is odd, in that the image at the top of the article itself is different to the thumb-nail image linking it from other pages).

Why is the Guardian only reporting reactions from the ECP? (The ‘English Collective of Prostitutes, which, like the Holy Roman Empire, is neither English, a collective, nor prostitutes.) Why are they not interviewing any sex industry survivors to see what they have to say on the subject? Why were the last two pieces on CiF about the sex industry by sex industry advocates? (Why is a dominatrix being given space on CiF to basically advertise her ‘services’?) Why are sex industry survivors not being given a voice on CiF?

The article also says this:

“The ECP and other sex worker rights groups have long campaigned for the introduction of laws similar to those in New Zealand, where sex work is decriminalised and women are allowed to work together in small owner-operated brothels.”

Now, that sounds very nice, but ignores the fact that in New Zealand, brothels and strip clubs are big business, with its first mega-brothel set for construction in 2015, with the full support of New Zealand sex industry advocates (“The Prostitutes’ Collective supports the expansion, a spokesperson saying she was disappointed there had been opposition to the project.”) It’s very nice to portray New Zealand as being full of independent brothels (they sound nice and cozy and counter-culture, like an independent bookshop or coffee shop), but that simply isn’t a complete picture; if the Guardian is engaging in this kind of obfuscation here, which is so easy for me to disprove with a quick internet search, what else aren’t they mentioning?


7 responses

  1. I must say I’m concerned about the current government implementing this kind of legislation. The heart of the Nordic model should always be strong and well-funded exit programs for survivors, and the Tories have already amply demonstrated how very, very little regard they have for poor and disadvantaged women. Likewise without thorough education programs for police officers the power that such legislation can give prostituted women to report clients is greatly diminished, and the coalition has already been slashing police budgets across the country.

    We desperately need a change in the law but I worry that if it is implemented badly (and thus fails the women who need this the most) it could only fuel the pro-prostitution lobby’s lies.

  2. The term “mega-brothel” is just appalling. What are these, more flat rate fuck clubs? Imagine what it’s like for a woman or girl who is considered especially appealing under such circumstances. Used over and over again with no restraints, until she bleeds from it.

    Oh, but it’s empowering! sez the men who actually would not like to be fucked until they bled, but hey, who cares, those wimmen are just whores. Like Andrea said, WE miss them. And we want them back.

    If everybody doesn’t count, then nobody counts.

  3. Smits,

    I understand your concerns completely regarding the current government and their ongoing crusade to destroy the welfare state. It may well be that it would be better if the Lib-Cons did nothing, than shift to a badly-done ‘Nordic’ model.

    The shift to an abolitionist model is one that can’t be done overnight with a wave of the legislative wand. As I’ve said before on this blog, exit services are absolutely vital to an abolitionist approach, and they need to be in place first, even if that means a transitional period of decriminalisation/tolerance of prostitution (with it being made very clear – especially to the johns – that it is temporary and for harm reduction purposed only).


    These are ‘just’ large brothels, and not the same as Germany’s flat-rate brothels. While the ‘New Zealand model’ is generally described as decriminalisation, it isn’t, the legislation contains several aspects that are specific to prostitution, for example that it is illegal to deny someone benefits if they refuse to take up ‘sex work’ or leave ‘sex work’, also, ‘sex workers’ have the right to refuse any ‘client’ or any sex act, for any reason, also, there is mandatory condom use, and one or two johns have even been prosecuted for taking a condom off. So, while the main tenet of New Zealand sex industry advocates is “sex work is work”, the law actually acknowledges that it isn’t work like any other; there’s no other industry where you are legally allowed to discriminate.

    Of course, what women do out of desperation is another matter. You may have the right to say no to the most disgusting men asking for the most disgusting things, but you still need the money, and ‘sex workers’ in New Zealand aren’t paid by the hour regardless.

    There is a general obfuscation going on over the ‘New Zealand model’, sex industry advocates like to portray it as proud, individual, empowered women working together to protect themselves and each other, but the reality is that child prostitution still exists, street prostitution still exists, the sex industry is dominated by chains of strip-clubs and brothels, and there is fuck-all available in the way of exit services.

  4. Thanks for the clarification. I can see this sort of thing being routinely undermined by defunding exit services, unfortunately.

  5. […] looking for links for the post earlier this week on MPs’ call for an abolitionist approach to prostitution, I clicked on […]

  6. There is fuck-all in the way of exit services in Germany and New Zealand (I intend to write about this in more detail sometime soon), at least an abolitionist law is a statement of (the right) intent. Succeeding in getting the law changed is the middle of the fight, not the end.

  7. I took a screen cap to illustrate the point I made about the varying images used to illustrate these news stories in the Guardian.

    The first one is the one used in the article itself, the second shows in the bottom right corner how it’s illustrated via links.

    MDG : EU prostitution new law : prostitute sitting on a chair waiting on a road

    Guardian 03March14

    Is it just lazy editors? Sensationalism? Or is it deliberate and political?

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