Paying for sex could become a criminal offence in England and Wales if parliament approves a new private menbers bill which has been put forward by Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North. Johnson has put the bill forward in a bid to
protect women from potential sexual exploitation and trafficking, but the proposal could have the opposite effect.
The bill is opposed by sex workers and groups including the Royal College of Nursing, Amnesty International and
many harm reduction and women's rights charities. It's argued that those calling for criminalisation are driven by ideology and not evidence, and sadly sex workers are often removed from the conversation in the hallowed halls of parliament.
Currently in the UK a lot of the work is already criminalised. You can sell sex, but you can't solicit it in a public place, and you essentially have to work alone because of laws against running brothels -- two prostitutes working
together constitute a brothel in the eyes of the law.
Johnson's bill would impose what is known as the Nordic model. Sweden's 1999 legislation -- which decriminalises the seller of sex and criminalises the client -- is often
dubbed as a 'progressive' solution to prostitution and is built on a feminist definition of prostitution as a form of male violence against women. To radical liberal feminists, what's not to like -- punish the men who buy sex in this patriarchal world.
The Nordic model is legislated in Norway, Iceland, Canada, France, Sweden and Northern Ireland in a bid to reduce demand and ultimately abolish the trade.
But the idea of the model is misleading and in fact evidence shows it has
led to more violence against prostitutes in all of these countries. Attacks against sex workers in Ireland alone have risen by 92%, since the introduction of the model in March 2017.
The bill had its
first reading in the House of Commons on 9th December 2020 and was originally given a 2nd
reading date of 21st of January 2021 but this didn't occur. The wording of the bill hasn't been published and the only information published so far is the description:
A Bill to criminalise paying for sex; to
decriminalise selling sex; to create offences relating to enabling or profiting from another person's sexual exploitation; to make associated provision about sexual exploitation online; to make provision for support services for victims of sexual
exploitation; and for connected purposes.