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Considering the Future of Prostitution in the UK
September 28, 2017, 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
On July 1, 2016, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) on UK prostitution submitted their third report to Government, detailing the findings of their inquiry. Among the findings, the report advised that the Home Office should, at the earliest opportunity, ‘change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and so that brothel-keeping provisions allow sex workers to share premises, without losing the ability to prosecute those who use brothels to control or exploit sex workers’. The report also encouraged the introduction of legislation for the deletion of previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers by amending the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
The HASC’s rationale behind their recommendations is to create a framework to enable the better protection of sex workers, who, through their occupation, are often subject to abuse, harm and exploitation. 49% of sex workers interviewed in a survey cited in the HASC report claimed that they were worried about their safety. Many organisations corroborate this idea, arguing that decriminalisation will bring the sex industry out of the shadows and allow it to be more carefully regulated. There are, however, clear splits within these groups regarding the desired extent of decriminalisation and how best to implement reform.
These policy disagreements have arisen at local, national and international levels. European Parliament, for example, is an advocate of the Sex Buyer Law (Nordic Model), which legalises soliciting but criminalises purchasing. The World Health Organisation and Amnesty International, on the other hand, support the introduction of a complete legalisation of prostitution. These divides are similarly present throughout UK society. Of the regions in the UK, only Northern Ireland has implemented the Sex Buyer Law. However, in March 2017 the Scottish National Party also announced its support for the introduction of the legislation. The Green Party, in contrast to this, declared in the build-up to the 2017 General Election that it would support the complete legalisation of prostitution in the UK. These developments have once again brought prostitution to the forefront of the UK policy agenda and highlighted the polarising nature of the issue.
Recognising the need for further deliberation on the future of prostitution in the UK, this timely Public Policy Exchange conference is a unique opportunity for local authorities, the police, women’s organisations and other stakeholders to examine the latest policy developments and discuss the way forward.