Last year it became illegal to pay for sex in Northern Ireland—following the model of Sweden and Norway. The Home Affairs Select Committee is currently investigating UK prostitution lawsby Joan Smith, Molly Smith / October 13, 2016 / Leave a comment
<a href=”https://www.wedgies.com/question/should-it-be-illegal-to-pay-for-sex-p3sfyxg4n”>Should it be illegal to pay for sex?</a>
Joan Smith (left) is a columnist, novelist and co-chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board (though writing here in a personal capacity). @polblonde
Click here to read more from our November 2016 issue
We are in the middle of an epidemic of violence against women. In England and Wales, recorded offences relating to rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse are at an all-time high. The number of reported rapes in London alone (a fraction of the real figure) rose by almost 11 per cent in the year to June 2016. In the same period, over 150,000 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded in the capital. This is a highly gendered phenomenon. Almost nine out of 10 victims of sexual violence are women, as are three-quarters of domestic abuse victims.
Something similar is true of prostitution: estimated numbers of male and transgender individuals vary, but most who sell sex are women. In a culture that tolerates appalling behaviour towards women generally, it is not surprising that women who sell sex are among the most vulnerable to—and suffer the highest levels of—male violence.
According to senior police officers, “the murder of sex workers continues to take place at an alarming rate.” An all-party parliamentary group talked about “near pandemic levels of violence experienced by women in prostitution.” The Home Affairs Committee heard that 152 people working in the commercial sex industry were murdered between 1990 and 2015. “The evidence that prostitution is harmful is hard to dispute,” a former prostitute testified.
None of this is an accident. In the west, it has never been easier to get sex without paying for it. Buying access to women’s bodies is a choice, and one that no one who just wants sex needs to make. It’s about power, rooted in inequality, and requires vulnerable women—often poor, foreign or with addictions—to collude with archaic fantasies about pleasure. It has no place in a society committed to achieving gender equality.
Molly Smith is a pseudonym for a sex worker and an activist with Sex Worker Open University and ScotPep. @pastachips
I agree: sex work is largely done by women—both transgender and cisgender—and clients are overwhelmingly men. Sex work is…